Rose Glass’ first feature film, Saint Maud, was a highly anticipated film for quite some time. While it may not be an outstanding film, it did manage to captivate and engage me, intending to bring a fresh perspective to the horror genre. Despite not living up to the hype surrounding it, I truly enjoyed Rose Glass’ approach to horror and how she constructed the narrative around faith. Especially the perplexing thematic question and the film’s final scene serve as compelling reasons to watch it. Although it occasionally becomes tedious in its pacing, it is undoubtedly one of the films you should definitely watch in 2021 due to its subject matter.
Let’s briefly touch upon the plot… Maud is a maid who works alongside a patient named Amanda. It is evident that Maud has feelings for Amanda and both loves and respects her. Maud’s profound love for God that she feels deep within determines the dynamics of their relationship. So much so that Maud believes God is reaching out to her, and at times, she engages in a frenzy as if she were making love to her God. However, when Maud discovers that her belief in God is unique to herself, things change. Maud begins to distance herself from those around her one by one, getting even closer to her God and embarking on a journey towards what can be referred to as Nirvana.
Horror cinema is my area of expertise. I have watched hundreds of horror films. However, certain films always stand out with their approach to the subject matter. Movies like “It Follows,” “The Wailing,” and others present us with an enigma that is quite challenging to unravel, drawing the audience into uncertainty. Saint Maud also excels in its mysterious nature. Perhaps the most beautiful aspect of the film is our constant attempt to determine whether it is fantastical or real throughout its duration. This lingering question remains even after Maud’s altercation with Amanda. However fantastical the film may appear, we come to realize that it is not purely imaginary and that Maud is a devout believer to the core.
The most terrifying thing in this life is belief. There is nothing a person who believes cannot do. Faith is born out of loneliness. People who feel alone in the universe have created their own gods, thinking they are being watched and finding happiness and security in that belief. Faith is powerful enough to make us do things we could never imagine doing. It involves loyalty to a higher power. Maud does many things in the name of her faith that would instantly label a person as insane. As Maud becomes even more isolated after losing Amanda, she chooses her God as her closest companion. She seeks refuge in Him, but to be accepted by Him, she must prove herself.
In many religions, suffering is seen as a means of purifying the soul. Throughout the film, Maud tries to discipline herself for her God. She wants to prove herself and dedicate her soul to Him for eternity. She wants to leave this planet filled with demons and go to her God. And she accomplishes that. She reaches her God by burning herself under the door He opened for her in the sky… or so I would like to say, but unfortunately, life is far from these fantastical truths. Despite not liking the film very much, the only reason I speak of it with praise is because of its final second, or maybe even less than a second, that final slap. I call it a slap because if you still believe the film is fantastical until that moment, you should wake up.
Saint Maud, based on the theme I have always advocated that real life is more terrifying than cinema, shows us how far a believer can go. We realize that the film, which you may have thought was fantastical, is actually nothing more than an advanced delusion of Maud’s. Although it is a fictional film, we know that there are many people like Maud in this world. And perhaps the most striking part of the film is Maud’s realization, even if only for a few seconds while she is burning alive, that her entire life has been a sham.
In fact, we can interpret the final second of the Saint Maud in two different ways. The first is, as I mentioned earlier, a woman who is burning fiercely because she poured gasoline on herself. A woman who is dying and within a few seconds will realize that her entire life has been a lie. The second interpretation is that of a woman burning in hell. Suicide is a direct ticket to hell in many religions, including Christianity. Although the film does not explicitly portray a fantastical realm, we see a woman who is burning because she committed suicide. Of course, these are all subjective interpretations. You can interpret the film’s final second differently, but I see a woman who has completely destroyed her life for no reason.
Cast & Crew
director: Rose Glass
writers: Rose Glass
starring: Morfydd Clark, Caoilfhionn Dunne, Jennifer Ehle
UK | 2019 | 84 MINUTES |