Some college students are back in the swing of things with the spring semester kicking off. So we’re heading to college in solidarity. Okay, maybe not the bad version that we see in Raw (2016), a French-Belgian film about sisters Justine (Garance Marillier) and Alexia (Ella Rumpf), who start to undergo changes after eating meat at college. Here are five reasons to watch it this weekend.
#1 – Hazing amazement
Okay, I don’t know about Europe, but here in the United States, hazing rituals have gotten so much negative attention that they’re widely frowned upon – we’re talking lawsuits due to death and dismemberment. Thanks to the public shootings, if you ever walked into a dorm with a ski mask on, you’d most likely be tackled by security or a group of kids with sports equipment. If this is an exaggeration of European culture, I’d love to get that confirmation – otherwise, it’s an affirmation that U.S. culture is radically different in how we approach things like this. That’s enough to give you pause.
#2 – We’ve got a badass
Nothing makes me roll my eyes faster than a college student who thinks they’re the hardest thing out there because they drink beer and make out with people at parties (double bonus points for them if it’s a member of the same sex). That’s Alexia in a nutshell, and man is she obnoxious. She forces her sister to participate in social conventions the girl really isn’t interested in, such as partying and waxing. For her, social suicide is the only thing that matters – to hell with her sister’s sense of agency. I can’t stand people like that. If you want to have a good eyeroll at someone, Alexia’s your girl.
#3 – Some of these college people suck
Between the status quo students who haze and uphold social convention and the professors, I’d absolutely hate to be in this college. There’s one scene featuring a star student being lectured for being too exceptional, and it’s incredulous. The worst part: there are people like that, and they’re actively teaching. It runs with the theme of wanting everything to be average: don’t be too good, don’t stick out, don’t draw attention to yourself. It’s all about not wanting to make someone else feel bad, and, well, if you can’t compete – or if your feelings get hurt because you’re not in first place – don’t play. The beauty of this approach to characterization: you really don’t get too attached to anyone, so you’re not upset when bad things happen to them.
#4 – Going with the flow
I can’t stress enough how much this film cautions against just blindly going along with what the group dictates because it will make fewer waves. There’s a whole lot of unquestioning behavior on Justine’s part: she doesn’t fight against her mother’s vegetarian lifestyle; she doesn’t draw a firm line against older students trying to get her to eat meat; she’s content to let everyone think she’s still vegetarian after she starts craving meat. Justine is all about appearances and a lack of confrontation. It’s a good thing to observe, because too often, we’re asked to just accept things.
#5 – The visuals are more than enough
Between Ruben Impens’s cinematography (really, his color schemes are great) and the symbolism packed into the shots (my favorite was the trees barren on one side and full on the other), this film deserves a couple of minutes to appreciate simply how visually stunning it is. It feels a bit dream-like in its visual clues and imagery. As much as I had some thematic problems with this film, you can’t deny that it’s beautiful.
Raw is available for streaming on Netflix.