Raw (2017)

Bound by Love and Torn By Flesh: Coming-of-Age Through Cannibalism

By Marcella Pansini

Raw (2017) is a horror coming-of-age story that explores the emergence of two sisters into adulthood. The film primarily follows Justine, a first-year sheltered and perfectionist veterinary student. She is a virgin in every sense of the word, having never tasted flesh, neither animal nor human, nor had sex. These primal urges are connected throughout the film, starting when Justine is peer-pressured into eating raw rabbit kidney for a school hazing ritual. This film becomes a metaphor for an adolescents experiences with experimentation and often convoluted search for independence.

Image 1- Justine & Alexia

Alexia urges Justine to defy her vegetarianism and eat raw rabbit kidney.

One scene in particular acts as the catalyst for this search for self (0:19:54). Justines sister, Alexia, urges Justine to eat the rabbit kidney and abandon her lifelong vegetarianism in order to fit in. The scene features an over-the-shoulder shot of Alexia and Justine as well as a close-up of Justines face. Dull lighting shines over the sisters, who are dressed in neutral shades of white that contrasts with the vivid red of the animals blood. The complicated relationship between the two sisters is also seen. The audience sees Alexia as the aggressor as she towers over her sister and shoves the undesired food into Justines mouth. However, the wariness in Justines eyes shows she is still conflicted on whether to trust her sister or not. The audience feels disgust for Alexias actions and sympathy towards Justine due to Justines facial expressions and Alexias positioning. This scene and Justines first cannibalistic experience offset Justines physical and psychological transformation throughout the film and reveal her familys secret cannibalistic history.

Image 2- Justine and Alexia's Finger

After Alexia passes out, Justine leaves her unconscious body to steal and eat her amputated finger.

“An animal thats tasted human flesh isnt safe” (0:49:06). This claim, spoken halfway through the film by their father, could serve as the films thesis statement. This line of dialogue brings the concept of vampires, zombies and other flesh consuming monsters to the forefront of the audiences mind. Over the course of the film, Justine undergoes a physical transformation that shows her characters psychological turmoil, transforming from an innocent girl to a feral, sex-crazed monster as she explores parts of herself she didnt know existed. This transformation culminates in Justines ravenous consumption of her sisters amputated finger beside her unconscious body (0:45:56).  Luptons Food, the Body and the Self explains the motivation behind parentsexertion of dominance over a childs eating habits: “control over the childs diet is vital. Not only is the offsprings present health at stake, but his whole future evolution” (950). Similarly, Justines parents had used strict control over her diet to try to keep her from following their familys history of cannibalism. However, by Alexia forcing Justine to eat the raw rabbit kidney she is pushed down a path of discovering both her familys secret history and her own innate desires. Justines relationship with meat and human flesh is largely defined by the shame and lustful feelings it provides her. This negative association with desires of the flesh ends after Justine consumes Alexias finger. By Alexia forgiving Justine, she provides her sister with the gift of food in the form of her flesh which demonstrates the love and trust they have for each other. This allows Justine to feel accepted and complete her search for self.

Exploring independence and discovering who you really are is difficult. Raw uses food and consuming human meat as a metaphor for sexual awakening and experimentation, creating a connection between sex and carnivorism. This metaphor also follows how our identity changes through exploration. Cannibalism also represents Justines evolving understanding of herself — both where she comes from and where shes going.

Works cited:

 Ducournau, Julia, director. Raw. Focus World, 2017.

 Lupton, Deborah. “Food, the Body and the Self.” Google Books.