In Raw, French director and writer Julia Ducournau takes something many of us have experienced, the social and sexual awakening provided in a college atmosphere, and takes it a step further. Indeed, Ducournau's exploration of cannibalism in Raw is as metaphorical and thought-provoking as it is surreal and disturbing. Yet, Julia reveals that her real reason for tackling the horror sub genre of cannibalism has more to do with what has been missing from the topic than for what effect the more graphic scenes in Raw would have on unsuspecting audiences. In short, Ducournau made Raw, because she felt cinema's cannibals lacked emotional depth.
Julia Ducournau Gets Raw About Cannibalism
Speaking with Jezebel, Julia Ducournau reveals that she was first attracted to the genre of cannibalism in horror, because it's often looked down upon, even among generations of dedicated horror fans. It might be suggested that cannibalism, either by living deviants or by hordes of undead zombies, is the often hidden cousin of horror sub genres, largely because it lacks compelling characterization and emotional connections.
For Raw, Julia hoped to change that by making the antagonist the one who becomes the film's cannibal. Raw tells the story of Justine, a vegetarian who goes away from home to study veterinary medicine at college. Swept up in the excitement of campus life, Justine finds herself participating in a hazing prank that ultimately leads to her own sexual awakening and to an insatiable hunger for human flesh.
Ducournau says most films and television shows that feature cannibals tend to portray them as something alien, not quite belonging to human society, but Julia adds that that's just why cannibal films aren't popular with a wider selection of horror fans.
"They are humans. I really wanted to tackle this mass repression thing about a part of humanity that is, indeed, extremely violent and extremely disturbing morally speaking, but that is nonetheless part of humanity," says the Raw writer and director. "My first impulse came from there. I thought if I wanted to make cannibal movies, I would make an 'I' movie. Not they, but I."
Below is the official red band trailer for Raw:
Raw Is Less About The Female Experience And More About Good Storytelling
Central to the story of Raw is the depiction of Justine as an average young woman transitioning from teenager to adult and the way in which society expects her to behave, but Ducournau tells Vulture that any social/political themes of feminism or gender equality are incidental to the story. Raw does expose how society views women and how Justine reacts to that in the context of the story, but Julia says she only uses those themes to tell a better story in Raw.
"As a screenwriter, my aim is to make the best story. My aim is to create a very complex character with a very clear evolution that everyone can relate to and raise stakes that are interesting," explains the Raw writer. "The main thing I am concerned with is the character and the way it interacts with the outside world."
Nonetheless, Julia adds that she didn't blindly pick her character and the themes at play in her story. On some level, Ducournau does care about these issues and wants to explore them within a fictional setting. She adds that the concepts she chooses to expose in her films always have bearing on her own emotional state, whether she's feeling rebellious or, in the case of Raw, angry.
"Anger is always seen as a negative feeling, but I think it's a very creative one," the Raw writer says. "You have to stay angry to create."
In the end, Julia Ducournau acknowledges that Raw does have strong feminist themes throughout the story, but that's just the way it happened. The process wasn't intentional. Ducournau just set out to make her best story and the result was a feminist cannibal.
Raw was released in theaters on Friday.
[Featured Image by Rogue International/Focus World]