In this essay, Orla Smith explores how Raw is as much about the experiences of her sister, Alex (Ella Rumpf), and their relationship — which saves Justine. This is a preview of our ebook Beyond Empowertainment.
Raw marks the emergence of a brilliant visual stylist in writer-director Julia Ducournau — and her aesthetic eye is matched by her humanism. Our protagonist is first-year veterinary student Justine (Garance Marillier). We track her journey from wide-eyed vegetarian to cannibal. Justine’s latent desire for flesh is thrust onto her all of a sudden when her older sister, Alex (Ella Rumpf), pressures her to eat a raw rabbit kidney during a veterinary college hazing ritual.
It’s unclear who the distant figure in the opening scene is, but we see a woman of Alex’s build instigating a car crash and predatorily approaching its victims. Alex later demonstrates this method of finding victims to her younger sister. The serenity of an empty highway is juxtaposed with the threat brought on by her prowling approach, set to the rising cacophony of Jim Williams’ score. Whether or not we know it at the time, Alex is our introduction to the film and its world, indicating her vital importance in all that will follow.
Justine and Alex share a proclivity for cannibalism, but they deal with it in very different ways. In the end, Alex cannot control her desires and murders Justine’s roommate, Adrien (Rabah Nait Oufella). She’s left in prison, whereas we leave Justine at home, safe. Long before Justine arrived, Alex cracked under the pressure of being alone and volatile. She had to give up her sanity and moral compass in order to dull her violent desires. Their beginnings were the same, but one thing separated them: Justine had Alex, and Alex had no-one.
Want to read the rest of the interview? Order a copy of our ebook on feminist horror beyond empowertainment here.