As cannibalism films “Bones and All” and “Raw” capture the experience of a young woman

“I’m sure you’ll find a solution, honey.” These are the last words of director Julia Ducournau’s 2016 film “Raw”, spoken by Justine’s (Garance Marillier) father, an aspiring veterinarian and cannibal. She says this after revealing her bare chest, full of old bite marks and scars left by her mother in familiar bursts of passion.

Her bewildering statement is as much a gentle cry for help as it is a chilling confession that her daughter has the same carnal fondness as her mother – and that she will continue unless she finds another outlet.

This scene comes to mind after seeing “Bones and All” at the New York Film Festival this month. Director Luca Guadagnino’s new film also centers on a young woman named Maren (Taylor Russell) who simultaneously navigates into new adulthood and realizes she has an undisciplined hunger for human flesh. Is she a condition, a desire or something else?

Neither movie seems particularly interested in answering this question, which makes them intriguing and, pardon the pun, hard to digest. (Although if you consider this 2003 New York Times articleyou may be more inclined to believe it is a trait that can be inherited from your parents.)

Justine (Garance Marillier) embarks on a shocking new journey on “Raw”.

© 2016 PETIT FILM / ROUGE INTERNATIONAL / FRAKAS PRODUCTIONS

And for what it’s worth, we learn that Maren’s mother, like her counterpart on “Raw,” is also a cannibal.

What makes both films so curious and enchanting, however, is the way they examine a young woman’s coming of age, when she comes out on her own for the first time and struggles with the new spaces she is in – the love and relationships, being away from home, making decisions for herself.

For Justine and Maren, this also means discovering that you are a cannibal.

There is a reason why the possibility of a solution to Justine’s eating people remained for the end of “Raw”. The film is more about who she is: a lifelong vegetarian, a new campus student struggling with hazing (forced to eat raw meat), a young woman attracted to a tempting young man along with the drinking and nightclub scenes.

Justine, a vegetarian, tries meat for the first time
Justine, a vegetarian, tries meat for the first time in “Raw”.

© 2016 PETIT FILM / ROUGE INTERNATIONAL / FRAKAS PRODUCTIONS

The further Justine moves away from what is familiar to her, the deeper she gets into what appears to be her cannibal nature.

Not even “Bones and All” tries to deal with this unusual trait, highlighting even more the use of cannibalism in these two films. In more typical horror films like “The Silence of the Lambs” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, it often comes as a shock value and shows up in firmly established characters as villains.

But in “Bones and All” and “Raw”, these young female cannibals are unquestionably the protagonists, and it seems less about what they do – feasting on the human body – than how they adapt to their surroundings and society as a whole. general . They manage to engage in this thirst with virtually no consequences.

Nobody is thinking of a young cannibal woman. Instead, it is the fact that they are isolated and alone that makes them more vulnerable. They walk along the fringes of society at a critical point in their life when they don’t have all the answers.

It is what makes them so interesting to watch. Because you can see that’s true of a cannibal, and also an experience that most women would find very recognizable.

Maren (Taylor Russell) and Lee (Timothée Chalamet) reunite
Maren (Taylor Russell) and Lee (Timothée Chalamet) reunite in “Bones and All”.

Yannis Drakoulidis / Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures

That result, or at least the conversation that both films sparked, is astonishing. Because unlike Ducournau, neither Guadagnino nor screenwriter David Kajganich have the genre experiences to fully understand a young woman’s journey (they adapted the film from Camille DeAngelis’ 2015 novel). And certainly not that of a young black woman like Maren.

Yet there is an awareness that permeates “Bones and All”. Like Justine, Maren is suddenly and brutally awakened by the fact that she is a cannibal and that she is considered equally dangerous and endangered.

It’s not a wholly bizarre thing to see in a horror movie. For an example that screams “coming of age can be a real nightmare for young women and everyone around them,” 1976 “Carrie” comes to mind.

But in the cannibalism subgenre to which “Bones and All” and “Raw” belong, the horror of the act is decentralized, and the filmmakers seem to argue with its more metaphorical meanings related to coming of age.

Maren and Lee are two lone cannibals who live on the edge
Maren and Lee are two lone cannibals who live on the fringes in “Bones and All”.

Yannis Drakoulidis / Metro Goldyn Mayer Pictures

For example, in the early moments of “Bones and All”, Maren is having fun at a normal teenage sleepover when she takes her friend’s finger, with the freshly polished fingernail, and bites it.

She is horrified by her inclination and runs to her father (André Holland), who is all too used to her suit. She covered up her cannibalism for years and soon abandoned her out of fear and frustration.

Maren is determined to find answers, even if not in the form of a solution to her problem. Rather, she wants to know where this is coming from and where she wants to go. Going on a journey across the country, she is isolated because she is a cannibal in a world seemingly full of non-cannibals.

Only when she meets Sully (Mark Rylance), an unbridled male counterpart, and Lee (Timothée Chalamet), a compassionate loner like her with whom she finds love, does her world begin to open up. And the dangers of life as a young adult, both as a cannibal woman and as an average human woman, seem to merge.

Justine is struggling with a series of unknown experiences as a young woman
Justine struggles with a series of unknown experiences as a young woman on “Raw”.

© 2016 PETIT FILM / ROUGE INTERNATIONAL / FRAKAS PRODUCTIONS

While “Bones and All” has a sweetness, “Raw” is definitely more frenetic in every respect. Ducournau catapults us into a more chaotic and compulsive world in which Justine, faced with perpetual hazing and the intense novelty of her situation, can barely get by.

He has glimpses of common young adult life with casual sex, late night parties, and surprise exams. But he also has to deal with the mysterious cravings he sometimes can’t even remember he has. And he can’t really process it with anyone, not even his sister, who is also a cannibal, so move on. He is fidgeting and things are starting to spiral.

But perhaps this is what adulthood is, which is sometimes beyond its control.

Both “Bones and All” and “Raw” seem to reflect on this as they follow their young female leads on separate but similar journeys, not necessarily about cannibalism but about themselves. It is a strange, dark and incredibly ingrained path that could strike you.

“Bones and All” premiered at the 2022 New York Film Festival and will be released in theaters on November 23.

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