Should we believe the hype?
The hype around Raw reached a boiling point as the film released last year. Whenever I see a report that people are passing out or puking during a movie I am immediately skeptical. I recognize that is probably not the best reaction to have, but I have never seen a film that even comes close to living up to this sort of hype.
French extreme cinema is, well, extreme. This is our second trip to the nation in this series, so there is no doubt that these movies can explore the outer boundaries of cinema and horror.
I am certain that most people know what this film is about: Justine (Garance Marillier) is a young vegetarian, who after being exposed to a hazing ritual develops a taste for meat. The meat that she is interested in is human, so we have another cannibalism story.
Before we get to that aspect, we are exposed to a most certainly illegal, cruel, and obnoxious hazing ritual. Unfortunately, my suspension of disbelief was more or less shattered in the first ten minutes. Mind you, I was onboard for a film about cannibals.
I was able to recover, but only by embracing the absurdist structure of the movie that for me removed it quite a bit from the extreme press it received. Sure, there are some grisly images and moments, but the whole thing is so crazy that it is hard to feel much when looking at them. Having to constantly push the un-believability of something away makes for a bit of a disjointed viewing experience.
We do get some discussions of animal rights, and the differences between hardline vegetarians and others. The problem is, I have heard all of these arguments before. The film seems to think it is giving Justine daring statements to make about animal rights, but they aren’t.
We also do get a lot of good stuff in this movie. The directing and visuals are simply fantastic. Instead of blood and guts, most of the film is setting up uncomfortable moments that mislead and sometimes baffle the viewer. I see these moments as more organic to the amped up violent scenes, and they are better for the more natural feel.
Aside from great visuals, the acting is quite good, and the characters genuinely seem to be interacting with one another. Further, the pressures of fitting in are on display here (even though sometimes it doesn’t make sense). Some of these scenes don’t even necessarily fit into the grander narrative, but offer up deep roots for analysis later.
Perhaps the funniest part of this film is how betrayed I imagine most viewers felt when watching. We have a weird coming-of-age tale with a bit of gore more than an absolute gorefest. Granted, the violence is stunning when it occurs, and I have to applaud the effects team on this one. The practical effects are simply fantastic. Yet, the film isn’t that disturbing. The gore is much milder than you probably expect, and instead we have a well done drama.
It is hard to evaluate this film due to all of the hype that surrounded it. Yes, it is a well made movie, but it isn’t the one that was advertised. Production companies should be mindful of misrepresenting movies in this way. If you go in wanting something more akin to Martyrs you will probably turn this one off in the first thirty minutes. I think as long as you know what you’re getting into this is a solid film experience. 7.5/10