meet the star of 'raw,' the erotic thriller about a female cannibal
Garance Marillier talks sexual awakening, cannibalism, and coming-of-age.
Just like Justine, her character in Raw — Julia Ducournau's new film about female cannibalism — Garance Marillier has always dreamed of becoming a vet. (That being said, the carnal desire for human flesh is all Justine). As much a coming-of-age story as a horror film, Raw is visceral, erotic, and exquisitely shot. It deals with a variety of complex subjects such as sex, identity, family, body image, adulthood, conformity, rivalry, and desire.
Cast in the lead role, Garance plays a somewhat shy 16-year-old who has her whole life mapped out. She'll follow in her strict vegetarian family's footsteps of becoming a vet. Setting a different example is her older, wilder, and much more outspoken sister Alexia, who introduces Justine to a world of sex, drugs, and teenage abandon. After a gruesome initiation ritual, where Justine is forced to eat raw rabbit, she begins to embrace her sexuality, while developing an insatiable taste for flesh. It is this idea of a girl's sexual awakening — for which Justine's cannibalistic desires are a metaphor — that the 18-year-old actress can identify with. We caught up with the Parisian beauty to talk social taboos and sexual experimentation.
What were you like as a kid?
I was pretty much the insolent, rebel type, [and] quite absent minded. In other words: the dunce of the family. My strong character drove my parents crazy, as well as my sister and brother.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
For a long time I wanted to become a veterinarian, but I soon realized that it would require a large amount of work, which I knew I would never be able to do. I've always wanted to do something that made me happy, and I finally realized that it was acting that made me feel so fulfilled.
Who were your role models growing up?
As a child I didn't have a role model, and mostly identified with animals. It seemed I related more easily to their psychology than the human one.
What is it about acting that appeals most?
Acting is an unlimited process of self-giving. It enables you to surpass yourself through perseverance in order to always improve.
How did you get involved with Raw?
I first met director Julia Ducournau at the age of 11, working with her on her previous films Junior and Mange. I was aware she had been working on another film, Raw, but I never imagined that I would get to be a part of it. We spent the next two years in intense discussion about my character and did lots of rehearsals with the actors.
Can you tell us a bit about the character you play?
I play Justine, a young, highly gifted girl whose family are both vets and vegetarian. She attends the same veterinary school as her parents and elder sister Alexia. She endures a harsh freshman initiation, during which she's forced to eat raw rabbit, leading to bloody consequences. Consequently there is a deep evolution of this young, innocent girl who is starting to discover herself bit by bit.
How did you prepare for the role?
Julia and I mostly worked on the body language, the music of the words, and the juggling of the different states of her evolution. It's been quite intense.
What was it about her that drew you to the character?
What attracted me at first was the physical challenge that the film required. Also, Justine has a lot to stand for. She's a very loyal person who's honest with herself — the kind of person who would rather hurt herself than others. She is at war with this darker side within her, [and] in spite of her fragile appearance, she's a real warrior.
Aside from cannibalism, is there anything you can relate to with her?
Yes, definitely. The kind of values that I try to defend on an everyday basis: authenticity, loyalty, and perseverance. Overcoming the darkness and challenging the negative.
Apparently people are collapsing in cinemas because of the blood. How do you feel about the controversy?
The film is harmless; calling it controversial is putting it in a pigeonhole when its whole premise is about standing against pigeonholes in general.
The film focuses on a young woman's sexual awakening. Why is this such an important topic, and what is the significance of showing it on film?
I think that a woman's sexual awakening is one of the most overwhelming things in life, and it's important to show it in movies. There's still a taboo surrounding the female body and its animalistic instincts.
What do you want viewers to take away from the film?
I would like to see this film inspiring more hope in people — inspiring them to fight against any kind of oppression.
What else are you working on at the moment?
There are a few movies I've got planned to shoot when I finish high school, but I can't talk about it yet.
What's the best thing about being a woman in 2017?
Good question. We might have more determination to change things than others.
What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
To continue making strong and beautiful movies, and continue to progress, always!
Text Tish Weinstock