RAW MATERIALS: AN INTERVIEW WITH JULIA DUCOURNAU

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Why did you choose a subject of cannibalism to explore female sexuality? Why horror?

The thing is for me, cannibalism in my movies doesn’t stand only for the sexuality of my character. It would be a bit reductive to say this. Cannibalism stands for a lot of different things – for example, one of the most unexpected things would be love, too much of love in this case. I am talking in a way siblings love and the way it is portrayed in the Bible, the Greek myth and stuff like that. You’re in such fusion and that in order for it not to explode, one of them has to die.

Like going back to the origins theory?

Yes, absolutely, like Abel and Cain, and similar stuff. And it happens that the reason why I tackled the subject of sexuality is because it is also a coming-of-age. So sexuality for me is more inked to the coming of age, then it is to cannibalism. 

So you’re saying that both of them are not linked at all?

Oh no, they are all linked! The problem is that if you link coming-of-age and cannibalism, it means that at one point she’s going to have problems because it implies a lot of proximity with people’s bodies. But I insist on the fact that first founding act of her cannibalism is not on a man, and it has nothing to do with sexuality. It is actually on a woman, her sister, and has much more to do with their relationship, and the fact that her sister represents also the system of hazing. I don’t want this to be reduced to a kind of ‘woman eats man’ story.

Would you say this film is about outsiders? Is this something you feel particularly close to?

It is the best thing that can happen to you!!! You only discover it when you’re old unfortunately. It is indeed a story of a girl who want to fit in desperately, but she discovers that Eh! Bad luck! What do you do? Kill yourself? How can you keep being in society and actually like yourself, and be yourself even though you do not fit in. There is something in you that you have to fight for in order to be a human being. In the movie Justine turns against herself, and doesn’t want to hurt someone else. She’s a monster but at the same time the most human of them all!

How would you describe a current situation for female filmmakers – was it easy for you being a woman director in the industry?

It’s never easy to make a movie. All I can tell you is this – it’s never easy to be a woman in any business, not just a film one.

Julia Ducournau on body horror: 

For me, talking about identification, I think I would film the male body the same way if my main character was a guy. I do believe there is universality in our triviality, the triviality of pour bodies. The fact that we can be gross and stinky, and hairy. Even now, talking about this, it makes us laugh. Why? Because it’s about our intimacy, the intimacy we don’t show anyone. It’s the intimacy you get when eating chips in front of shitty TV on Sunday in your underwear. I do believe there’s something here that everyone can identify with, something which is beyond genders, beyond classes, beyond everything. If it’s a male, it’s kind of for granted. For a woman, unfortunately, it’s different. Why? Because in daily life the way female bodies are represented, is always through filters: the filter of sexualisation, glamorisation. Most of the time sexualisation equals ads, and glamorisation equals TV shows. Sexualisation is to please a man, glamorisation ti set goals to women. All these are fantasies, there is no truth and no one can relate to that. And I really wanted to take the female body outside its niche, and to make it universal and to talk about intimacy that we all have. And that’s why I am so close to it and would have done the same for a man obviously.

When you talk about the birth of sexuality in young women if often described as something that makes her a victim. What the fuck is that???? I mean why would it make you a victim? This is part of the thing where people think that women are weak. This is ridiculous, and I really wanted to show that, one – women are as active in sex as men are. You can discover sexuality for the first time, and to be completely okay with an idea of climax, and to be a desiring body.

On the juxtaposition between the two sisters: 

When you work on your character who is going to become a cannibal, you really had to build up the empathy on her sister, otherwise you’re fucked!!! And I used many strategies for that. The first thing is that we see her through the eyes of Adrien, and Adrien has a very tolerant eye on her. The way he looks at her is not sexual, it’s more with tolerance and amusement, which is very important again. I really wanted for him to be our transfer on her. And, of course, I confronted her to her sister and their relationship is super important because we see that she feels that all of a sudden the feels that the only person she was looking up to in this shitty universe lets her down, and you feel that Justine is going to try and get he love back, but it’s useless. The thing is that they don’t belong to the same word any more, which is going to be even more amplified on the road when she realises that her sister would do things she would never do.

RAW comes to UK cinemas, Digital Download and VOD 7th April.

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