Raw could easily be another slice of life teenage story, albeit made without the rosily sentimental spectacles of most of its English-language counterparts. Garance Marilliers signing into the veterinary school is depicted with a naturalism her bewilderment and fear at being thrown into the middle of hazing rituals and dance parties filled with half-naked bodies is shown with unflinching regard. There are times when Ducornaus images are quite unworldly one of a horde of students all crawling out of the dormitories on their hands and knees other times she is determined to rub our face in it Garance Marillier walking in on Rabah Nait Oufella getting a blowjob from another guy; a conversation that casually takes place where Ella Rumpf has her arm all the way up a cows ass.
In many respects, Raw fits into a body of films about woman undergoing obsessions see the likes of Repulsion (1965), Kissed (1996), Ginger Snaps (2000), In My Skin (2002), Thanatamorphose (2012), Contracted (2013), even you could argue David Cronenbergs Rabid (1976). These are all films that take the point-of-view of a woman as she falls into obsession or else becomes infected. The plot arcs of all these films depict how this takes over her life and becomes all-consuming, eventually leading to death. Some of these films also directly tie the obsession/infection to the heroines growing discovery of her own sexuality.
Julia Ducournau waits some way in to develop the films full shock effect. There is a wonderfully ick scene where Garance Marillier pulls up a massively long clump of hair out of her throat over a toilet (all accompanied by helpful advice as she exits the cubicle from a fellow student who assumes she is purging). This is followed a little later by the hard-to-stomach scene where Ella Rumpf accidentally severs her own finger while trying to introduce Garance Marillier to the notion of waxing and, with Ella passed out, Garance plays with the severed finger, initially using it as a lipstick and then the wonderfully queasy scene where she starts to chew on it. The kicker of the scene that Ducornau then throws in is to have Bella Rumpf come around to find Garance eating her finger.
The film never fully clarifies what is happening to Garance for much of the film whether it is some kind of psychological breakdown or the awakening of a sexual fetish, while her skin peeling off after eating the rabbit kidney suggests some kind of infection. Equally, Bella Rumpf would appear to also be aware of what is happening from the scene where she stakes out a position on the road, causes a car to crash and is then found munching on the drivers spilt brains (one of the less convincing scenes in the film). You keep wondering if this is something the sisters share or else something that all those who go through the hazing ritual experience. The answer the film finally settles on makes for a fine sting in the ending.