Saint Maud, the quite extraordinary debut film from writer-director Rose Glass arrives on Blu-ray and DVD this week. Brilliantly towing the line between psychological drama and body horror, the film is a brief yet brutal exploration of faith, mental health, and loneliness, featuring two wonderful central performances from Morfydd Clark and Jennifer Ehle.
Maud (Morfydd Clark) is a private palliative care nurse, sent to work for Amanda (Jennifer Ehle) a former dancer and choreographer who is dying from terminal cancer. An intensely devout young woman, Maud has recently come to believe that she has been communing with God, whose presence she feels in agonising and ecstatic seizures. She becomes convinced that God has sent her to save Amanda’s soul.
Amanda finds a small measure of amusement in Maud. The two become friendly during their repetitive daily routine, and Amanda playfully refers to Maud as her saviour. Maud however, truly believes it. Her obsession and devotion is all consuming, and she demonstrates this to her Lord through mortification of the flesh, in ways that will make you squirm in your seat.
There are echoes of early Polanski, Bergman, and even Scorsese in Saint Maud. The film explores the similar themes of loneliness, social alienation, mental health, and frenzied religious piety seen in the likes of Repulsion, The Silence, and Taxi Driver. Maud is a person out of kilter with the rest of the world, driven by obsession, and isolated as a result.
Through Glass’s keenly observed script, and Clark’s sensational performance, the film works on one level as an intense psychological character study. We are teased with glimpses of a horrifying medical incident from the past that preceded Maud’s fervent devotion. An incident that fractured her mind and soul and led her on this path.
The director, however, takes it to another level. Maud’s religious seizures (godgasms as Glass refers to them in the special features) have something otherworldly about them. Physical contortions, glimpsed only for a second, hinting at the inhuman. Has Maud truly been possessed by God? Or is something else more sinister working through her? Or is it all in her mind?
The way in which Glass maintains this ambiguity for so long is wonderfully done. The stylistic choices, from the cinematography, the production design, and the incredible score, all add to the deeply unsettling atmosphere and sense of foreboding. As the viewer you’re never quite sure, because underneath all the zealotry, Maud isn’t quite sure either, and that’s where it gets scary. And believe me, it really does get scary. The final ten minutes of this film will live long in the memory.
The Blu-ray disc for this release comes with a feature length commentary from Rose Glass and editor Mark Towns. Maud and Amanda is a short behind the scenes featurette with the main cast and crew discussing the main characters. Creating the World is another brief behind the scenes clip, this time delving deeper into the artistic side of the production.
Constructing the Scene is an excellent little snippet, looking at how some of the visual effects scenes were accomplished. This comes with commentary from the director. Finally, there is a 30-minute virtual Q&A with Rose Glass, moderated by Telegraph film critic Robbie Collin.
Cast: Morfydd Clark, Jennifer Ehle Director: Rose Glass Writer: Rose Glass Released By: StudioCanal Certificate: 15 Duration: 84 mins Release Date: 1st February 2021