Fans have really been gnawing on Raw (review), the new movie from French writer-director Julia Ducournau. It’s sort of a mash-up between Ginger Snaps, The Fly and Cannibal Holocaust. Sort of. The movie really does defy description, but movie-lovers keep on trying – which is a great thing, to have a film that sparks so much discussion. We had a chance to have a discussion of our own with Julia, and this is what she had to say.
Dread Central: What is interesting, or surprising to you, as you travel the worldwide film festival circuit with Raw?
Julia Ducournau: Surprising? Well, as you say I’ve been for a year with it so we can’t speak of surprises with it anymore but in any case, I must say that what’s interesting, and this is something I had foreseen already when I was writing the movie, is that whether people like it or not, let’s say generally speaking the reactions are generally pretty extreme, pretty intense. Fortunately most of the time it’s pretty positive but sometimes you’ll see people really shook up by it and this is something you don’t get used to, it shakes people to the core and I often think about an interview with David Cronenberg I had read about, maybe last year or something like that in which he was saying, and I’m not quoting him directly, when The Fly was released at the moment he could not really measure the impact it had actually had on the audiences and he could only understand it many years later by re-watching the movie. I think I’m in the first stage here of not really being able to measure it, it’s still hard to decipher, very hard.
DC: Are you still, pardon the phrase, digesting it all?
JD: Yeah, kind of because when it comes to analysis, I can’t make a proper analysis because I’m still in the now if you wish, so I’m still taking in every single reaction of my movie and it’s hard to process everything because it’s so much information for a year.
DC: Would you say it is a movie about cannibalism? And it’s being perceived as pretty extreme at that?
JD: I think it’s all the more interesting that my movie is not about the more and more and more, it’s not torture porn and it’s not shocker. What is interesting is I do think people are moved by it deeply because it’s a lot to leave to them, to their imagination as well, you know? It’s not like I showed her eating brains in the first five minutes, that would have been completely counter-productive for me because I really wanted to build up this empathy for her and I that it’s because I show her as a human being and I don’t try to make it a supernatural creature or just a psychopath with no emotion. I make her someone who is relatable and I think this is why it comes from this.
DC: Have you noticed a difference in fan reaction between North America and Europe?
JD: No, not really but audiences in American have been reacting to the cigarettes in scenes which is really unusual to French people. That was very funny, the first time I realized it, it’s true, cigarettes are something we see a lot of in movies and so it comes with the flow so with me, with America that’s the biggest difference. Otherwise the reactions and the empathy works the same on both sides, that’s what’s nice for me because I really wanted to make a movie that had a universal approach and something that could reach everyone, beyond genders, nationalities, origins and sexually a big, big part of my work from this. If I had trusting differences according to the audience somehow, I would have thought that I failed a bit, I think.
DC: Did you write the script with Garance Marillier in mind?
JD: The thing is you know, Garance, this is the third time we worked together and we’ve known each other six or seven years and she started in my first works in Junior and we went to Cannes together with it. The short has a lot of success as well which made us travel together with the short and that is how we created a bond. We started together because it was my first short outside of film school and for her she was twelve at the time, it was her first time ever on the set, she did not even want to become and actress at the time. So afterwards she was my TV feature I did right away after the short and so actually when I was writing Raw I forced myself not to think about her, despite the fact we have worked together a lot and are really close in real life. I did not want to think about her because I did not want to be bias writing the character in the story, I did want to think oh no, I can’t ask her stuff like that, you know. So I wrote it entirely, I forgot about her even though I was having lunch with her sometimes, I didn’t say a word about the script and I when I finally finished it then I could integrate her face to the script, it was very important for me not to think about her before then. So for me, the script is the most important thing for me, before anything else.
DC: What would say to people who’ve read the stories about people in the theater fainting or having to leave? That might be incentive for some, but general viewers may not give it a chance if they think it’s too gruesome.
JD: Well the first is, don’t believe the hype. A lot has been said about me movie that is not really about my movie at all. The second thing is, that’s very important to me, is that there is nothing that pleases me more when the Q&A is over and I meet my audience in real life. I really love it when people come and see me and tell me wow, I really did not think it would be that movie and people tell me they laughed, they did not expect to laugh and they did not expect to cry and they were super pleased that as you said, it was not just a shocker with no point to anything. Actually a lot of people come and tell me that this is not my cup of tea normally but this I really liked, I could relate to the sisters and stuff like that, people telling me these things are the best compliments ever.
Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf, Rabah Naït Oufella, Joana Preiss, Laurent Lucas, Bouli Lanners, and Marion Vernoux star.
Everyone in Justine’s family is a vet. And a vegetarian. At sixteen she’s a brilliant student starting out at veterinary school where she experiences a decadent, merciless, and dangerously seductive world. Desperate to fit in, she strays from her family principles and eats RAW meat for the first time. Justine will soon face the terrible and unexpected consequences as her true self begins to emerge…