Film review: Raw

by James Robins / 20 April, 2017
Raw.

Welcome to the unholy realm of French cannibalism.

Pickled rabbit’s kidney is a gateway delicacy. Savour its delights, and soon you’ll be thieving greasy burger patties and waking up in the early hours to tear at uncooked chicken breast, only then upgrading to the piquant flavours of an amputated human finger, nibbling delicately at sinew and tendon, lapping up the spilled blood as if were the succulent juice of a wad of rare beef. Such is the destructive addiction of Justine (Garance Marillier), recently arrived at a rural French veterinary college where the dons are rarely seen and the place is apparently run like a kind of post-ironic millennial boot camp; dog dissections by day, bacchanals in the morgue by night.

We are, if it wasn’t apparent from the shocked reports emerging from festival showings of Raw, in the unholy realm of cannibalism. As such, the film takes a healthy interest in human bodies and the multitudinous variety of ugly cruelties which can done to them, with them, or otherwise emerging unwillingly from them. Raw’s most wince-inducing scenes are not of anatomical banquets, but of suppurating rashes being itched and half-digested hair coughed up, the camera preferring to linger in extreme close-up far longer than many horror pictures would dare. In this way, the film bears something of a passing resemblance to David Cronenberg’s Crash, examining the unnatural and fetishising the perverse.

Unlike Crash, Raw can’t quite maintain its chilly, deeply unnerving mood and collapses before long into silliness (“You taste like curry,” Justine tells her sister.) Far more impressive is 19-year-old newcomer Marillier, looking fresh-faced, virginal, and shy at first, before letting lose some kind of dormant animal as Justine’s compulsion for flesh takes over. Her frankness in submitting to the sweaty, crazed convulsions of bloodlust is something to behold. ••½

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