Lucky are those who somehow assimilate their Shadow, the Jungian term for the typically objectionable traits we possess that we’re unconscious of. Only when we own and assimilate these darker aspects can we individuate into our best selves. Raw, a modern day horror film set in France that’s written and directed by Julia Ducournau, uses cannibalism to underscore the difficulty of accepting the depth of one’s personal abyss.
Raw’s startling pre-credits sequence on a sparsely trafficked road is hard to shake, as if to presage the journey that lies ahead for Justine (Garance Marillier). Her parents (Joanna Preiss, Laurent Lucas) – much is made of the trio’s vegetarianism – are taking her to start her higher education at their veterinary-college alma mater where older sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf) is also a student. A gay roommate Adrien (Rabah Nait Oufella) will play a key role in Justine’s trajectory.
Rush week is brutal, unbridled, bloody and sexual. The animal flesh that occupies the premises evokes a descent into Pluto territory: chthonic, unfiltered energies – truly raw ones – that signal an invite to the virginal teen. When, during hazing, Justine is taunted to ingest a piece of organ meat – “Eat it or be a reject,” goads her sister – she takes it in, triggering her body to explode into a massive rash. Her Persephone deal with Hades, involving a fully blown blossoming of her shadow cannibalistic instincts, is sealed on the spot.
Justine’s coming of age, in every sense, is emotionally gruesome and physically messy, which profoundly emphasizes the rigors required to reach a mature self-acceptance. The movie’s depiction of the sisters’ alternating devotion, vengefulness and selfishness deserves a spot alongside dark-side female-movie-sibling fare like John Fawcett’s Ginger Snaps (2000) and Jim Mickle’s We Are What We Are (2013). If hell is where the treasures are, best to own them. Raw demonstrates that embracing such feral corruption is easier said than done.
Archetype: Cannibalism. Rite of Passage.
Astrology Archetype: ♇ (Pluto)