Julia Ducournau, the director of the terrifying, seductive and full-on disgusting “Raw” created a nearly perfect debut. “Raw” can best be described as a coming of age horror movie. Justine (Garance Marillier), a freshman at a veterinary school, discovers she has a craving for human flesh after going through a traumatic hazing ritual. We talked to Ducournau about the film, her influences and female sexuality.
As a female director, are there any challenges that a male director wouldn’t have to deal with?
JD: Since Cannes and since I started doing interviews and Q&As for the movie, I have been asked so many questions that revolved around my gender. And I think that’s very disturbing, because when I write, I just tell the story I want to tell. I don’t think that I’m writing as a female screenwriter or a female director. So it’s just, being reminded of my gender so much the last year… I didn’t realize it was that much of an issue, but I realize that it is very much now.
What were some of your influences for “Raw”?
JD: When I write and direct I try to not watch the movies I really love in real life, I really try to not be tempted to reproduce anything, I’m kind of scared of that. I really never go back to my main influences when I’m doing the job […] I tried not to make references to any of my main filmmakers like Cronenberg, and Argento and David Lynch as a trinity in my life. The only direct reference in the movie is the “Carrie” reference by Brian De Palma, and it’s a movie I like, but it’s not a founding experience for me. I did it directly because I knew people in the audience would think about it because of the premise, so I decided to wink at it and play with it. But then a lot of people have told me, “I see some Dario Argento, I see some ‘Suspiria'” and I think it’s so funny because “Suspiria” was really one of the biggest shocks in my life, and even though I didn’t think about it as I was directing it, when someone tells me this and I see my movie, I’m like “yeah, I see it,” but it’s subconscious.
Why did you decide to have a female protagonist?
JD: At the beginning, I personally like to explore, before I write the script, all the different roads my movie can go to. Just before I was writing the first treatment, I was thinking: who’s my main character, how old are they, is it a he or is it a she, and is it med school or vet school, and all of this. I thought that considering that cannibalism (and that’s why I chose it) is all about the body, and I’m completely obsessed with bodies, and I do believe that it’s possible, in horror movies, to know the psyche and what is inside the character according to their body. And so I knew it was going to be about that. I knew it was going to be coming of age and the birth of sexuality, someone who is also around the body, and I thought I had more to explore with a female character, than a male character.
How did you choose to portray feminine sexuality?
JD: When I have to portray sexuality I really wanted to show something else besides the cerebral, unsure, and kind of victim way that the birth of sexuality is portrayed in young women on our screens. You know, “am I going to have a bad reputation? Am I going to be called a slut? Is he the right guy? Is he going to call,” and stuff like that, all of this is in the head, it’s not in the body, and for me sexuality is the body. So I wanted to put sexuality back into the female’s body with a body that is desiring, aiming at climax like every other body, and to make it unapologetic and shameless. That was very important to me.
Photo: Focus World