You may have heard of Julia Ducournau's first feature, Raw — probably in the context of a number of people who reportedly fainted during midnight screenings at film festivals. Yes, Raw is intense viewing — there's blood and sex and cannibalism — but it's so much more than a cheap shock.
Movie Pilot had the thrill of talking to Julia Ducournau herself about her challenging, pointed movie, and, unlike John Waters who always said that an audience member vomiting during his movie is like a standing ovation, Ducournau was simply concerned for anyone who passed out during Raw:
No, it's not a compliment. I don’t work in marketing so that's not how i see things. [The film is] not unbearable to watch.
If you're unfamiliar with Raw, check out the trailer: young veterinary student Justine's first taste of flesh sends her into a spiral of hedonism and bloodlust in a sexy, predatory film that eloquently and sensually addresses sexual fluidity.
- How American Horror Story Is Breeding A New Generation Of Horror Icons
- The Ultimate Mind-Fuck: New French Extremity For Beginners
- What's the Most Disturbing Movie You've Ever Seen?
Ducournau is sensitive and cerebral, exhibiting none of the gleeful one-upmanship prevalent in genre directors, though she is a real horror aficionado. In fact, despite its blood and bodies, Raw was never intended to be a horror film at all:
I don’t consider it to be a horror movie, I'm a big horror buff… what I’m seeking is to be incredibly scared, I want to have nightmares afterwards. I didn’t write this movie in this perspective, didn’t use jump scares which is kind of horror movie 101. I didn’t want to shock people with a bloodbath or a torture porn movie.
The real horror in Raw, Ducournau says, is conformity, describing a deliberate channeling of Lord of the Flies to get into the mindset of hazing and group psychology, the lengths that people will go to for acceptance:
Who sets the rules? When does the interpersonal cruelty start to happen?
[Justine] wants to fit but can’t no matter what she does. It joins my expression of the positive monster, monstrosity is better than fitting the box.
Not only is it an assertion of your own individuality but also a discovery of what being a human is… compulsions make you close to animals… the discovery of this that makes her some kind of monster, and confronts her for the first time in her life when she leaves home: "I can kill — but will I?"
Raw crosses the line we put between ourselves and our darkest taboos and shows us what it's like on the other side — as a horror fan, I relished it. As a vegetarian, I adored it. Is it possible for a woman who can make this kind of film to be scared herself, as a movie-goer? Well, yes, though Ducournau says that being in the business has made her "that horrible person" who analyzes rather than straight-up watches movies:
I’m not the normal audience… it takes a LOT for me to be scared nowadays.
I was not scared really, but also because i look at [other directors] like my peers, you’re looking for the talent so you don’t watch movies like a normal person would.
However, there were a couple of stand-out horror hits of 2016 that really impressed her:
The Conjuring 2, I jumped off my feet and was really screaming in the theater... And that very weird movie Greasy Strangler — a complete renewal of comedy, it has no complex whatsoever, it's not inhibited.
The hypnotic allure of Raw is a heady mix of its charming, impossibly attractive young stars, wince-inducing body horror and a gleeful kind of melancholy, the smooth camerawork lingering hungrily on skin, both living and dead. What's next for this talented filmmaker?
[It's] definitely going to be the same language, same genre crossover — comedy and horror — there is no genre without laughter.
Let us know what you think of Raw in the comments, or, if you haven't seen it, go watch it in theaters. You will devour this movie.