Saint Maud ★★★★★

I can't remember the last time I watched a film 2 days in a row and still want to watch it again.

Like many of us, probably, I've been watching loads of films and series during this interminable pandemic, but I haven't felt inclined to write about them. Maybe it's due to the lingering liminality & cultural malaise in which we find ourselves enmeshed.

But then I watched "Saint Maud," and I can't get it out of my mind!

Rose Glass' brilliant film sees its titular character traversing, or teetering on, some fine - and dangerous - lines, all of which are topical during our global plague: faith and delusion, loneliness and confidence, transcendence and nihilism.

Throughout the film, Maud projects her beliefs onto the world around her, while she speaks directly to us (and God) in voice-over, reading signs into small details, or revealing how spiritual power blasts through her like a warm sensual wind, recalling "The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa of Avila" (be it her autobiographical account, in which she levitates & has intercourse with Jesus, or Bernini's marble rendering of the ecstasy). Maud lives in an other-worldly realm.

We know she has previously suffered a tragedy; the film tells us this in the first sequence. We also know she's utterly alone in the world. That's evident early on too. But she seems to have transcended her past, or to have been saved, and now she wants to save others - both through her medical training, but also - and more importantly - through the transference of her faith.

That's how she comes to meet Amanda, a terminally ill dancer who is Maud's polar opposite: self-possessed, sexual, dynamic, cultured, social, artistic, and grounded in the material world. Amanda is the embodiment of embodiment.

Maud, meanwhile, is floating...disassociating. She's like air to Amanda's earth; voice to Amanda's body.

In a central sequence, immanence grounds Maud in the real world, a seedy scene involving alcohol, sex, vomit, and all the abject aspects of life that Maud's fastidious, tightly-wound, saintly self seeks to expunge - almost to the point where her eyeballs pop out of her skull. The same earthly elements from which she believes she's been sent to save her patient, Amanda, before she dies. Maud is "the little saviour."

Amanda humours her, for a time, until Maud oversteps her bounds. And then, with one strike, Maud's world begins to go up in flames.

"Saint Maud" is a richly textured and gorgeous film, so well acted too; aesthetically, it's out-of-this world, not only in its spiritual content.

There is one scene involving a birthday cake, in which Maud stands by an open door, holding the plates, the room engulfed in darkness, with only a tiny amount of golden light filtering in from outside the room, which makes a halo effect around Maud & an edge-lit table full of earthly indulgence: wine, fruit, cheese. It could be a Renaissance or Baroque painting, a Caravaggio, or a Vermeer. The lighting is cinematography magic.

But the lighting is symbolic too. It takes us back to those fine lines I mentioned before: does it mean clarity or darkness? Good or evil? God or Satan?

The film works on so many levels. I cannot stop thinking about it. I will probably watch it again tonight! For whatever reason, "Saint Maud" moves me. It's a horror film, yes, but it's not easily categorized. Generically, the film teeters as well.

It's a drama, a love story, a story about loss, or longing, about being alone inside one's head too much, and for too long, which hits the proverbial nail on the proverbial head, hammers it onto the cross, or puts the last one in the coffin.

You will have to watch it to decide.

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