Saint Maud

Rose Glass, UK, 2020

I’m so sorry if you are unable to go to the cinema right now. It was the one thing I really missed when we were in full lockdown, but happily for me the authorities have decided they’re not a hotbed of infection. Here in Barcelona, cinemas are — for now — open at 50% capacity (in pre-pandemic days, I never saw a screening over half full anyway!). We must keep our masks on and sit scattered throughout the auditorium, the air conditioning pumps away…and the screen is big, the sound loud and the darkness enveloping! I love getting lost in a film, and watching them on my laptop at home just isn’t the same.

In this directorial debut, low-budget British horror, we join former good-time nurse Maud after she has had a religious conversion (due to the experience of losing one of her patients? Her past is hinted at and revealed in pieces by other characters, but cleverly never explicitly explained). She feels God’s presence physically and is on a mission to save souls. Particularly that of a dying former dancer of some repute in a dark, isolated house on the top of a hill overlooking the North Yorkshire coast (this symbolism of this part of the world is not lost on me: synonymous with gothic horror, Whitby, home to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, is just up the road).

Like any good horror film, we’re never sure if what’s happening on screen is “real” or all just in our protagonist’s imagination. Is she just mad? Aren’t we all??! Our experience of reality is a very subjective perception. Most of us agree on how things are, but not everyone. Maud’s experience of the divine is so physical it is real for her. Using sound, visual effects, detailed depiction of bodily trauma, metaphor (insects, whirlpools in unusual places), the filmmaker does a great job of conveying this to the viewer. Atmospheric and claustrophobic, I loved it!

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