Home Film ‘Saint Maud’ Review – A Heart-Stopping Psychological Masterpiece

‘Saint Maud’ Review – A Heart-Stopping Psychological Masterpiece

by Ben Rolph

Saint Maud takes its name from its central lead, young and devoted Catholic nurse Maud, played diffidently by Morfydd Clark. It’s a psychological thriller that delves into aspects of divine horror, and it does so subtly. The physical relationship between God and Maud is explored, it’s this focus on Maud’s spontaneous response to a greater presence that ultimately begins the spine-tingling and somewhat hidden notions of enchantment. Director Rose Glass draws a perfect line in the spectator’s understanding of Godly intervention and a psychological condition, one is constantly left guessing at the edge of their seat.

The film follows Maud, faithful and slightly unhinged, as she looks after her patient, Amanda (Jennifer Ehle). Becoming obsessed with saving Amanda’s soul, Maud calls upon the holiest of spirits to aid her newfound mission. However, sinister forces and her death-filled past threaten Maud’s ability to guide Amanda on her mission.

It’s a biblical and spiritual tale unlike no other, leaving one speechless and in absolute shock. It’s certainly the most impactful film of the year and Glass displays true qualities of mastery. Glass is in complete control over Saint Maud‘s sensuous and beautifully haunting visuals, to its pitch-perfect composition and directorial hold, one can feel the presence of an expert filmmaker at hand. Morfydd Clark gives the finest performance of the year; she is both unassuming and devotedly creepy. Her dedication on-screen allows for full immersion and alignment. One is simply left mesmerized. Additionally, even the most seasoned aficionados will squeal at Saint Maud‘s horrifying beats: the sounds of a shoe filled with nails, squelching with blood, or a breathtaking burst of relentless devil-inflicted possession.

Morfydd Clark in ‘Saint Maud’ courtesy of StudioCanal

Fashioned in a disciplined and adept manner, Saint Maud boasts a deftly twisted psychological narrative that is both horrifyingly arresting and gracefully haunting. One will be left speechless as the film’s final frame draws to black. The shock and terror felt is a testament to Glass’ ever-lasting sense of piercing tension and the viewer’s awe-inspired investment in Maud. Made in an empathetic form, the film is not solely about horror and the otherworldly, but in the end, it’s an affectionate study on a truly devoted and saint-like human.

Gorgeously photographed by ‎Ben Fordesman, Saint Maud is an endless feast of exquisite colors and magnificently framed shots. Fordesman’s cinematography is evocative of Maud’s spiraling emotions, conjuring pressingly eerie images of eternal damnation and sin. Consistent thrashing convulsions create an almost orgasmic rapture in Maud. It’s this mystifying and physical connection to a potentially real God-like entity that invokes an uneasy relation to reality, is this just Maud or is it divine intervention?

Morfydd Clark in ‘Saint Maud’ courtesy of StudioCanal

Odes of Robert Eggers’ The Witch glimmer in Maud’s ethereal juncture to God, there’s a comparison to be made to Anya Taylor-Joy’s hair-raising talk to Black Phillip. At such a point, the balance is tipped and the questioning of Maud’s delusions become somewhat futile. Yet, even in the most harrowing and spine-chilling moments of pure horror, Glass somehow unexpectedly sweeps everything up as the two perspectives (reality or not?) collide once more. The filmmaking on show is utterly and unabashedly praiseworthy, Saint Maud is a masterpiece of the psychological.

Saint Maud is told from two split perspectives, Maud’s and supposed reality. It’s a finely tuned piece of cinema that surely will leave a grand mark. At the behest of Glass’ undisputed craft, one’s soul is left shaking. Especially in the closing moments as editor Mark Towns breaks the balance with one heart-stopping cut.

★★★★★

Saint Maud premiered at TIFF 2019 and is set for a UK release on October 9. More updates on its US release to come!

Follow senior film critic Ben Rolph on Twitter: @THEDCTVSHOW

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