Navigating the Mind/body Divide: The Female Cannibal in French Films Grave ( Raw , 2016), Dans ma peau ( In My Skin , 2002) and Trouble Every Day (2001)
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Grave (English title: Raw), the 2016 feature film debut from French writer/director Julia Ducournau, is a body horror that explores cannibalism in a contemporary setting. A vegetarian student, Justine, develops cannibalistic desires after she is forced to eat rabbit kidneys in a hazing ritual at a veterinarian school.
This film portrays the female cannibal as having lost control of her bodily impulses. Justine displays a loss of cognition that results in involuntary actions when confronted with raw flesh. One can observe parallels in this portrayal and that featured in earlier films Dans ma peau (In my Skin, 2002, dir. Marina de Van) and Trouble Every Day (2001, dir. Claire Denis). These two films are identified with the early twenty-first-century French ‘cinema of the body’ trend, which involves disturbing and horrific portrayals of alienated protagonists, sexual debasement and transgressive urges.
In my exploration of the mind/body divide featured in Grave, I’ll argue that the film moves away from portrayals of the cannibal in the two earlier films, as we now observe a female protagonist who is actively engaged in meaningful relationships with others. As such, Justine seeks connection rather than disconnection from those around her, with varying levels of success.
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