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Never Waste Your Pain: Saint Maud (2021) - Reviewed

Posted By themoviesleuth 1152 days ago on Entertainment -  “Are you there God? It’s me, Maud.”As someone who grew up very religious and then became atheist in my early twenties, I understand that the world feels completely different when you are religious. You see signs everywhere, demons could be anywhere, and mysticism permeates your viewpoint. Deconverting felt like getting out from the pool, the cold clarity of logic and reality hitting my senses like a shock to the system. Saint Maud (2021) explores what can happen when religious fervour overtakes one’s perception and the consequences of completely detaching from reality. Katie (Morfydd Clark), a young nurse, has a traumatic experience trying to save a dying patient. Afterwards she converts to Roman Catholicism and changes her name to Maud (possibly a reference to Saint Matilda, the Patron Saint of Misbehaving Children). She goes into private care and is put in charge of Amanda (Jennifer Ehle) a retired hedonistic dancer who is in the last stage of Lymphoma and needs hospice care. Amanda’s carefree attitude, which is bolstered by her impending death, simultaneously intrigues and repels Maud, who feels that God sent her to “save” Amanda’s soul before she passes away. Maud has become consumed by her religion, and instead of it bringing her solace it only serves to further alienate her from society.Saint Maud is constructed in such a way that the film is entirely from Maud’s viewpoint and everything is tinged with her warped view of the world. She frequently has transcendental spiritual experiences and partakes in flagellation and self-harm—giving herself burns, putting pins in her shoes and walking around town on bleeding soles. For Maud, pain is how she shows devotion to God and she looks down on those who partake in the more carnal pleasures of life. It seems that burning guilt often goes hand-in-hand with religion, and Muad wants to connect with people but she doesn’t know how. She’s isolated and awkward and it continually feeds into her psychosis. This film feels quite critical of religion--specifically the way women are often made to feel shameful of sexuality and lust. Maud spends her off time having one-night-stands with random men at the bar because she doesn’t know a different way to connect with others, and then returns to her dingy apartment consumed by feelings of disgrace.This is director Rose Glass’ debut feature length film, and it’s impressive how sure her hand is in establishing aesthetic and mood. Ben Fordesman’s cinematography is excellent at depicting Maud’s skewed view of the world, often using off-kilter camera angles to make the audience feel uneasy. The first two acts are rather straightforward, and might be construed as “slow” by some viewers, but the third act ramps up the surreal visuals and culminates with one of the most shocking endings in recent memory. The music score, by Adam Janota Bzowski, is extremely ominous and unsettling, often using deep bass drones to imbue a scene with dread. Saint Maud is both a psychological character study and a horror film, switching between these two states effortlessly mixing magical realism with harsh reality to create a disconcerting blend.Morfydd Clark puts in striking performance, oscillating between a demure pious woman and a deeply disturbed misanthrope who thinks she hears the voice of God. This type of religious character study is usually from a male point-of-view, and it’s refreshing to see a woman director tackle it, put her own spin on concept, and in the end ultimately subvert it.—Michelle Kisner 

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