Saint Maud is an elegantly haunting mix of psychological and bodily horror.

Saint Maud by Rose Glass is an elegant and brutal examination of faith, death and trauma that deserves the attention it continues to receive.

Rose Glass feature film debut Santa maud was positioned to be one of the great horror film hits of 2020 after its premiere at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival, but everything changed after the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic more or less closed the last year’s box office. The film will finally be widely available to watch this week with its release on Epix and Video on Demand (VOD), allowing Glass’s elegant and brutal examination of faith, death, and trauma to receive the attention it deserves.

Santa maud takes place in a sad English seaside town and could almost be mistaken for a haunting and atmospheric horror movie made in the 1970s, if it weren’t for the brief flashes of modern technology like cell phones. The eponymous character, played by Morfydd Clark, was once a young nurse named Kate before a terrible incident, glimpsed briefly in the film’s grisly opening, derailed her career and shattered her spirit. Since then, Kate has become Maud, a devout Roman Catholic and private palliative caregiver.

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Maud’s new assignment involves taking care of Amanda (Jennifer Ehle), a renowned American dancer and choreographer who is now dying of stage four cancer. In any case, however, Maud is not enthusiastic about this task, admitting in her private prayers to God that she recognizes the value of this work, but feels that it is destined for something greater. It is through Maud’s internal monologue that Santa maud it embodies the character’s interiority and avoids the cliché of turning her into an unconditional believer or skeptic of her new faith. Rather, Maud clearly takes her beliefs seriously, but can’t help but wonder what her creator has in mind for her.

Morfydd Clark and Jennifer Ehle in Saint Maud

Amanda, on the other hand, harbors little doubt about what awaits her (or, rather, does not expect) for her after her death, but is not above joining Maud in her prayers or appeasing her as she talks about feeling the presence. physics of God. inside. At the same time, that doesn’t stop Amanda from paying for sex with her younger partner Carol (Lily Frazer) or getting drunk with her longtime colleague Richard (Marcus Hutton), much to Maud’s concern. In fact, Maud is soon convinced that God sent her to save Amanda’s soul and takes it upon herself to try to prevent Carol from visiting Amanda regularly. That is going as well as you might hope and it is not long before Maud is out of work.

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Is here that Santa maud begins to shift from a quietly haunting piece of humor to a psychological thriller, as Maud tries (and fails) to escape the feeling that God has rejected her by going out for a wild night on the town, only for her repressed trauma to roar back. . to the surface. This is also where the film begins to change aesthetically, swapping the long, stark takes of its first half for faster, more disturbing cuts, but always remaining firmly rooted in Maud’s point of view. Her unreliability as a storyteller becomes even more important as the story progresses, especially when she begins to hear and experience things that may not be real, at least not out of her mind.

As Maud struggles to regain her balance, she often resorts to self-harm, something the movie hints that she has done in the past as well. These moments are even more effective because they tend to avoid showing explicit details and rely more on innuendo through sound effects and Clark’s facial expressions, allowing them to be haunting without feeling exploitative. Santa maud is equally sensitive in the way he treats Maud as a person with a complex array of conflicting thoughts and feelings, rather than a glorified excuse to indulge in disturbing body horror scenes involving a woman still in the dark. early stages of adult life.

Morfydd Clark in Saint Maud

Santa maud It may be too slow for those who prefer their horror on the fast side, but others will be rewarded for their patience as the film builds a growing sense of dread. Glass and his cinematographer Ben Fordesman (The end of the damn world) enhance the mood of the film by painting Maud’s world in somber dark tones with the occasional splash of bright color, mostly red in scenes where blood is spilled or a cleverly deceptive take on what turns out to be bubbly tomato soup. Santa maud It is also well served by its tight 83-minute runtime, though it prevents Glass from delving into the idea of ​​dance horror that Amanda’s story presents (to that of movies like Black Swan Y Suspiria).

In the end, however, Glass is more interested in tracing Maud’s spiritual crisis to its grim conclusion, culminating in the short but terrifying final shot of the film. While it echoes other recent films about faith and doubt, sometimes too closely (one scene in particular strongly recalls a key Martin Scorsese moment Silence), Santa maud Otherwise, it’s a confident and pretty splendid debut for Glass, as well as featuring a riveting performance by Clark. Hopefully, you will find the audience you should have gotten last year.

Written and directed by Rose Glass, Saint Maud stars Morfydd Clark, Jennifer Ehle, Lily Fraze, Lily Knight, Turlough Convery, and Marcus Hutton. It will be screened in US theaters and will hit VOD and Epix beginning February 12.

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