‘Saint Maud’ Finds Horror At The Intersection Of Faith And Madness
Riveting feature directing debut by Rose Glass
Friday, February 12, 2021
"Passion of Joan of Arc" (1928)
"Morvern Callar" (2002)
From its opening score and fevered images, "Saint Maud" announces itself as an audaciously unsettling offering about the dangerous intersection of madness and religion. That opening sequence is not entirely clear and that's part of its purpose. It's not that filmmaker Rose Glass lacks clarity, it's that her character does. We don't know if the disturbing images are real or imagined because we will discover that our protagonist is not a reliable narrator. But the glory of this film is how it places you completely inside her head.
Maud (Morfydd Clark) is a young hospice nurse waiting for God to give her direction. She is mousy in demeanor and moves invisibly in the world that pays her no heed. She is about to start a new job and she asks God: "Forgive my impatience but I hope you will reveal your plan for me soon. I feel you must have saved me for something greater than this."
And she decides he has. She sees her mission as saving the soul of her dying patient, Amanda (Jennifer Ehle), a former dancer now suffering from cancer.
At one point Maud asks God: "Bless Amanda’s body which has done incredible things and bless her mind which is shrouded in darkness."
Amanda is amused by her "savior" and "little saint." She gives her a book of Blake's work but later taunts her and challenges her about God telling her He is not real. The film is about the tangled relationships of Maud to God, Maud and Amanda, and Maud with the real world, and it all plays out with such ferocious purity of vision that it's hard to look away.
The feature directing debut of Glass is a searing portrait of a lonely and powerless young woman desperate for some kind of salvation and attention. Glass gets us inside Maud’s intoxicating visions with a darkly seductive visual style. There is not a frame that feels out of place. Although this may sound hard to imagine, it is a film of great beauty as well as horror. It is also anchored by Morfydd Clark's riveting and poignant performance as Maud.
"Saint Maud" is horror for the adventurous soul because it challenges you. And make sure you don’t blink at the end because the final image is a gut punch that proves how bold and original Glass is as a filmmaker.
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