A WORD ABOUT SAINT MAUD
OK, I know it’s been a while (and by the way, I hope everyone is hanging in there with everything going on), but I have risen to sit at my desk and write to you now about a movie which has blown my mind so, so much … Saint Maud.
I’ve always been attracted to horror concepts which involve religious fervor and how that can get out of control. I also like movies that chronicle one’s descent into madness. So the appeal for Saint Maud was there right from the start, but it wasn’t what I expected at all, and I mean that in a totally good way. I didn’t know the protagonist was consumed to the point of self-im … well … let me hold off from that particular detail, because you will see it.
I’ll just tell you there are things in this movie which were TOTALLY unexpected. The horror of it all was so great, sometimes I was going, “Fucking hell, did I just see what I just saw?” And the full impact of this movie really hit me a full two days after the first viewing.
It’s a very stripped down portrait of a young woman, Maud (played by Morfydd Clark) who we figure was at one point a professional nurse but is now employed in the privatesector. We’re presented with two major facets of her character; insanity and religion. And the truth is, both get worse as they get closer together.
She is desperately seeking a combination of belonging, commitment, atonement while struggling with a great inner-trauma, which makes it impossible to make connections with people regardless of how hard she tries. Slowly, you start getting the message that maybe her reality is her own custom made version. In lots of films, madness is suggested, but here you see exactly what she’s seeing, and that makes the perspective harder to break down.
Maud’s character reminded me somewhat of Catherine Deneuve’s Carol Ledoux in Roman Polanski’s 1965 classic, Repulsion, where we see her going through something in a very singular fashion; trying to work it out, trying to avoid insanity. She was an au pair, so also involved in home care, and there were a few times where I thought Maud might be a modern take on Ledoux.
We see Maud engaging in several “social” acts but in desperate, detached and ultimately unsuccessful ways which end up in a series of what could be hallucinatory situations. It feels like being involved in a big nosedive, yet she seems unshakably committed to her path, and there is this dangerous level of delusional narcissism that leaves her utterly wrapped up in her own convictions. I think there’s can be comparisons made to certain elements of society today, where some people feel that throwing all your faith behind a cause or belief will result in your life being so much better.
Yet weirdly, the stranger and more crazy Saint Maud got, the closer Maud seemed to get to a kind of peace. Only her route to enlightenment is kind of quietly and persistently horrific. You’ll see at the very end – is that a happy ending or not? I guess that’s a case of personal perspective. And the fact it is a British production is no surprise at all, this film has that great “small and very real freshness” about it that you got with Hammer back in the day and films like The Wicker Man. I think its lack of convention, and its folklore-rich vibe, really gave it an even greater presence.
My last observation? Saint Maud was written and directed by a woman, Rose Glass. This directorial feature debut stars predominantly female characters, and is to all intents and purposes a female-driven movie, which is so fucking great. That’s even more of a reason to see it, support it, and speak about it to everyone you can.
Believe me, you’ll want to.
Until next time, thanks and stay safe,