thu 17/06/2021

Blu-ray: Raw | reviews, news & interviews

Blu-ray: Raw

Blu-ray: Raw

Bloody, compelling French horror in Julia Ducournau's feature debut

Garance Marillier, developing a taste for the red stuff

Raw opens with a bang, a distant figure on a remote country road stepping out in front of a car, causing it to crash into a tree. What’s really happened isn’t made clear until we’re well into French director Julia Ducournau’s 2016 feature.

Part coming-of-age drama, part grisly horror, the film centres on young Justine (Garance Marillier), a fresher at the remote veterinary college once attended by her parents and where her sister Alexia is already a student.

The campus is a bleak, brutalist outpost, and Justine’s first days there are dominated by a series of barbaric initiation ceremonies, the most shocking a bloody nod to Brian de Palma’s Carrie. Justine, a vegetarian, is obliged to swallow a piece of rabbit kidney, kickstarting a sudden craving for meat. At first, this can be kept under control by eating raw chicken fillets and shawarmas, and at one point she pockets a greasy slice of steak haché while queuing in the refectory. Ducournau’s college scenes are brilliantly staged, from the shots of students blithely dissecting dogs and cattle to the rowdiness of the party scenes, Mariller’s initially strait-laced Justine cowering, flinching at the noise and chaos.

Raw blu-rayAll of which suggests that Raw is unflinchingly bleak. Ducournau leavens the mix with plenty of black humour, notably in a scene where the worldly-wise Alexia (Ella Rumpf, pictured below) tries to give her younger sister a bikini wax and ends up losing part of a finger. Which is picked up by Justine, who, instead of packing it with ice, tastes the fresh blood and begins to nibble. It’s to Marillier and Ducournau’s credit that Justine’s descent into cannibalism is so believable, her behaviour no less extreme than the thuggishness displayed by the school’s older students. Justine’s inscrutable parents seem less shocked at Alexia’s injury than one might expect, in spite of the girls claiming that the missing digit was eaten by the dog.

Justine’s dietary and sexual appetites grow as her relationship with Alexia becomes more consuming, the latter’s behaviour demonstrating that cannibalism is in the family genes. What happened in the opening car crash sequence becomes clear, explained in one of the extras as akin to a hunter lying in wait for its prey. Justine’s saintly roommate Adrien (Rabah Naït Oufella) is powerless to assist, his demise predictable but no less shocking for that. Then there’s the closing confession from the girls’ father. Ouch. Despite the bleakness, you daren’t look away. Visually, Raw is stunning. The school’s brooding concrete buildings are rendered improbably photogenic, the big grey skies welcome relief from the claustrophobic interiors. Ducournau even throws in a fleeting reference to photographic pioneer Eadweard Muybridge.Ella Rumpf and Garance MarillierSecond Sight’s reissue looks immaculate and comes with a generous selection of extras. Interviews with Ducournau and Garillier are enlightening, the latter revealing that she became an actor so that she could experience things that she wouldn’t encounter in "normal" life. We get a choice of two commentaries, one shared with Ducournau, and there’s an insightful video essay from critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas. A terrific feature debut.

@GrahamRickson

Despite the bleakness, you daren’t look away

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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