Maud’s face is serious and intense, and her hair is hung in long curtains on either side of her face. She moves through the busy streets of the station like a specter, existing on another plane, floating above her body in reveries of happiness, transcendence, ecstasy. How to maintain this state is a constant struggle. She puts nails in the soles of her shoes and walks slowly down the pier, blood streaming to the floor, her face blazing with pain and ecstasy. You’ve heard of the “pebble in the shoe”, but pebbles are not enough for Maud: she needs nails! She lays hard kernels of corn on the ground and kneels down to pray. When she senses the presence of God, her face involuntarily twists into an ecstatic, almost frozen gaze, her mouth open, more like an orgasm than anything else (historically these lines have always been blurred). Maud’s story is mostly obscured. We don’t know how she was “saved”, but there is an extremely revealing sequence where Maud “returns” to her old ways. This still does not provide any easy explanation.
It’s exciting when newcomers like Glass come in with complete vision and confidently executed, especially when the vision is quirky, difficult, and weird. This story has already been told. It is in a continuum of stories of religious mortification, obsession and torment. But “Saint Maud” bears the imprint of its creator and thrills new possibilities. By keeping the film a character study – as opposed to a story driven by the plot of a vengeful angel / demon – “Saint Maud” talks less about religion, and more about Maud’s existential loneliness (loneliness, rather. ), its isolation, the dangers of being so cut off from humanity. The movie has a lot in common with “Taxi Driver,” “Carrie” and “First Reformed,” and it has a similar mood of inevitability and dread. Newcomer Adam Bzowski’s score – aligned with Maud’s subjective experience – is deeply baffling, as is Paul Davies’ sound design, which traps us more in Maud’s perspective.
This is an independent film on a low budget, and Glass performs extremely well in these settings to create a murky and eerie vibe. Glass uses the location of Amanda’s home to great effect, reveling in spooky moments of calm, where the hallways and stairs yawn around the intense and quivering young nurse. The wallpaper is busy in the Victorian era, as are the floor tiles. The color scheme is very controlled, with an almost underwater, greenish and dark glow, the light struggling to pass through the thick marbled windows. The liquid is a continuous pattern, dripping from taps, coming from the ocean, bubbling on the stove – green and red, soapy water in the sewers, a strange cyclone suddenly bursting in a glass of beer. Reality is unpredictable seen through Maud’s sleep-deprived eyes.