Raw star 'afraid of horror movies'

Raw actress Garance Marillier says the film does not terrify her as she sees the special effects, not blood and flesh, when watching it.
Raw actress Garance Marillier says the film does not terrify her as she sees the special effects, not blood and flesh, when watching it.PHOTO: UIP

The breakout star of French horror film Raw is 19-year-old high school student Garance Marillier. In Singapore, she would be barred from watching her own movie, rated R21 here for gore and some homosexual content.

Not that she would mind. In the film, winner of the Fipresci (International Federation of Film Critics) Critics' Week prize at the Cannes Film Festival, her character spends a good amount of time doing things that would ordinarily make her wince.

"I'm not a fan of horror movies. Not because I don't like them, but because I can't handle them. I'm afraid," she says on the telephone from Paris, speaking through a translator.

The exception would be her own movie, which does not terrify her, she says. That is because having made it, she sees the special effects on-screen, not blood and flesh, she adds.

At the Toronto International Film Festival last year, where the film won third place in the People's Choice Award in the Midnight Madness section, some members of the audience could have used that distance. They were so traumatised they passed out. An ambulance crew was called in to treat them.

"I was a bit surprised after I found out about that. I even laughed a little. Granted, I have more distance from the film, but I also understand how intimate and disturbing it is," says Marillier, who studies at a high school for the arts and sports, where students are given time to pursue non-academic activities.

She postponed her studies for a year to make Raw and is now in her final year.

She has been a working actress since 2011 and has made three films with writer-director Julia Ducournau, including Raw.

She did not have to audition for the starring role of Justine, the naive student at a veterinary college who is bullied and hazed by fellow students.

"Julia and I are close in real life. She told me about the role before she went casting for it, then made plans to have me audition. But she didn't do it in the end because she decided to give the role to me."

But Marillier thinks the character is not based on her - at least not consciously.

"While Julia was writing, she didn't want to talk to me about it because maybe she didn't want me to influence her," she says.

For example, Justine is a strict vegetarian, but Marillier herself has no problem eating meat.

"I love animals, but I love meat and I'm not at all vegan."

Is the theme of cannibalism in the film an allegory for something else, sexual maturity perhaps?

Marillier declines to be specific.

"Yes, there is a link to sexual maturity because cannibalism is what led Justine to discover her sexuality. But it is all part of Julia's universe, so I cannot answer that," she says.

She is glad, though, to be part of Ducournau's project, now hailed as a film that has broken out of the arthouse and festival circuit and into wider acceptance as a mainstream work of horror.

"It's rare for French film-makers to get into horror. It's a genre that many of them are afraid to go into. Raw marks a change and maybe there are going to be more French horror films from now on," she says.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 15, 2017, with the headline 'Raw star 'afraid of horror movies''. Print Edition | Subscribe