The Big Issue : Edition 534
THEBIGISSUE7–20APR2017 33 saw when she was six years old. Raw isn’t your typical horror film. Ducournau deploys generic conventions only to subvert them in this coming-of-age story about a young veterinarian student, Justine (Garance Marillier), who turns from a life dedicated to vegetarianism to that of a cannibal after a first-year university hazing ritual gives her a taste for flesh. “Rituals always come from transition: you never really know why you have to do some stuff because it is transmitted from generation to generation,” says Ducournau. The audience’s allegiance resides with Justine as she – and we in turn – is forced to question why she must obey orders simply for the sake of upholding tradition. “I knew that through hazing, empathy would be with my character, which is important because she would commit the ultimate act of transgression.” Ducournau is not the first French woman to make a film about cannibalism. Notable precursors include Marina de Van’s love song to self-harm and autosarcophagy (aka self-cannibalism), In My Skin (2002), and more famously, Claire Denis’ iconic Trouble Every Day (2001). “Cannibalism stands for many things,” Ducournau says. In Raw, embracing the taboo means complete freedom. “But freedom comes at a cost – freedom only exists with responsibility.” This tension lies at the heart of Raw, where eating of human flesh is much more than a gruesome spectacle, but rather where the film’s power and politics are contained. “Cannibalism in Justine’s journey stands for an act of rebellion against the establishment,” she says. Raw uses the figure of the cannibal to defamiliarise more socially acceptable rituals. Every time something shocking occurs on screen, it is carefully framed by actions far more ordinary, like fingernail biting or the obsessive tendency to film things on our mobile phones. “Personally I really don’t like technology, so I resist it: I don’t see the point of filming [everything], it’s ugly,” says Ducournau. But this irresistible drive to record concerns her deeply. “The relationship we have with each other’s image is snowballing... This drives me crazy, it’s the disease of our time.” Coming to terms with our own humanity – our own bodily capacity to both feel and inflict pain – is for the filmmaker inherently ideological. “My movie is very dark, but I wanted it to be clear at the end that there is a solution, and that the solution is in her,” says Ducournau. “I really need people to hear that when you open your eyes to who you are and your humanity, then there is a solution, and the solution is in you.” Making movies is ultimately part of Ducournau’s own journey of discovery. “It is important to channel violence in a way that is self-assured,” she says. “A meaningful expression of violence is important.” For the filmmaker, Raw is a visceral crash course in accepting our own capacity for violence, and the consequence and responsibilities involved in that reality. “It’s a privilege,” she says. “I feel incredibly lucky to be able to express my inner violence, and as a woman today I am very lucky that I can make people acknowledge it in a way that they can relate to.” by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas (@suspirialex) » Raw is in cinemas 20 April. “IT IS IMPORTANT TO CHANNEL VIOLENCE IN A WAY THAT IS SELF-ASSURED. A MEANINGFUL EXPRESSION OF VIOLENCE IS IMPORTANT.” PHOTOGRAPHSBYMONSTERFILMS BLOODY HELL: GARANCE MARILLIER IN RAW.