Saint Maud Blu-ray Review
Maud (a devastatingly good Morfydd Clark) is a carer who moves in to take care of former dancer Amanda (Jennifer Ehle) whose body is ravaged by cancer. Maud is timid and mousey, Amanda is hedonistic and brash, but the two form an unlikely bond and as a devout Christian, Maud becomes convinced she has been sent to save Amanda’s soul, but Maud’s past is catching up with her to lead her down a dark, dangerous path.
Rose Glass’ debut feature is a remarkably confident and assured film that defies and transcends all easy categorisations and summaries as well as genres. Saint Maud perhaps works best as a horror; you will be horrified, disturbed and shocked, the kind you will feel deep in your bones. It’s also a deeply tragic examination of one woman’s relationship to religion as well as her obsession, grief and past trauma which Glass hints at but we never see fully unfold. Endlessly fascinating, it feels like the first chapter of an ambitious and talented filmmaker’s filmography.
Saint Maud is terrifying on the first watch, but deeply sad on the second and third. Maud’s story will certainly resonate with many, even when it dips into some of the more supernatural scares and moments, but Glass and Clark always make sure to ground the events in Maud’s declining mental state. It falters a tad when it appears to pity Maud, but this is a minor issue in such a handsome, compelling film.
Clark is simply sublime as Maud, fully encompassing her fragility and devastation, but also resilience and devotion, building a fascinating, layered character. She shares palpable chemistry with Ehle, who is equally impressive as the impulsive Amanda. Whereas Maud is spiritual, Amanda is physical; the two couldn’t be more different but they are both fascinated by each other. Their mental games and dynamic are equally affecting and engrossing as the film’s genre elements, if not more.
But the real star here is Glass herself. Her gaze guides the audience’s eye and she exerts her control over everything; Saint Maud is a rich, detailed cinematic experience. Erotic and intimate, this is cinema at its most potent and terrifying. The sound design is particularly impressive and immersive; whether it’s Maud’s slight gasp as she goes through a divine intervention or the squelch of flesh being pierced, the sound is almost more disturbing than the images that Glass conjures up for our viewing pleasure.
Cinematographer Ben Fordesman and editor Mark Towns work in perfect harmony to create a deeply disturbing visual experience, which looks and sounds great on Blu-ray. There is something overwhelmingly unsettling about how calmly and peacefully many of the most striking and chilling shots are filmed. The film culminates in a sequence which without a doubt will haunt you for weeks after first seeing it. Such a simple moment, staged and played with maximum effect, leading to an ending that is as tragic as it is twisted. Saint Maud is an instant classic and will be remembered as one of the best, most assured and inspired feature debuts in recent years.
Audio commentary with writer-director Rose Glass & editor Mark Towns: An insightful and relaxed commentary which reveals plenty of behind the scenes secrets and should please fans of not just the film itself, but people interested in the mechanics of filmmaking.
Virtual Q&A with Rose Glass and film critic Robbie Collin: A surprisingly long Q&A filmed over Zoom in October 2020. Collin and Glass discuss the film while also taking live questions from audiences around the UK following a screening.
Constructing The Scene featurette: A fascinating look into how some of the film’s scenes were created, such as Maud levitating and spinny pint glasses, narrated by Glass. It’s refreshingly unfussy and truly interesting and Glass provides insightful narration.
Maud and Amanda featurette: A short featurette with cast and crew interviews focusing on the two characters.
Creating The World featurette: A featurette looking into the origins of the story, influences, practical effects and costume design. All the extra featurettes are on the short side, but they’re all rich in details and provide great background and information on the film.
Saint Maud will be released on DVD, Blu-ray, digital and limited edition steelbook on February 1.