08 October 2020 22:32

Saint Maud

Rose Glass on her cult horror Saint Maud: 'I'm still waiting for lightning to strike'

It turns out to be more a question of whom: she's Carol (Lily Frazer), Amanda's vivacious young female 'companion', who comes to visit most evenings and occasionally shoots Maud a smirk while swanning past her to retrieve another bottle of champagne from the fridge. Not until she settled on Scarborough, where she discovered the "magic combination" of everything she needed to shoot the outdoor scenes for her highly-anticipated debut feature film, Saint Maud. It is about a young nurse and recent religious convert, Maud, who in the 31-year-old director's mind is "a little bit like a Catholic, English Travis Bickle", Robert De Niro's protagonist in Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver. Played by Morfydd Clark, Maud develops an unsettling, obsessive relationship with Amanda, an ill former dancer of some fame portrayed by Jennifer Ehle. It is an exploration of isolation and the need to connect with something, and Glass tells The Yorkshire Post that "even though the character ends up taking the audience in some weird, twisted places, my hope is that she is surprisingly and alarmingly relatable in some ways".

Asked why she chose the spot, Glass said: "I had always wanted to film something set in an English seaside town. "I think what I had in my head when I was writing was somewhere like Hastings, somewhere down south, but you know, a lot of English seaside towns have this kind of slightly weird, slightly nostalgic, faded glamour kind of vibe to them. "The film's set in the present day but I wanted it to be a slightly un-placeable version of the present day, make it a bit more universal, [and have] a slightly fairytale kind of slant [to] the look and feel of it." An Edwardian property in Highgate, London, was used to film the scenes at Amanda's house, while the off-season arcades and alleyways of Scarborough were used for exterior shots. Chris Hordley, who works in production liaison and development for the agency Screen Yorkshire, said Saint Maud has been able to tap into the Gothic tradition of the region's coast. "Having any story set by the sea immediately gives the sort of visual world of the film this kind of elemental grander scale.

Much like Bickle, the unhinged anti-hero of the 1976 classic, Maud is "someone who's meant to find the outside world and reality basically quite an intimidating and uncomfortable place to be," said Glass. In Saint Maud, the year's best horror film, we're introduced to a young woman (Morfydd Clark) – quiet, stiff and stern – who's been hired to care for a terminal cancer patient (Jennifer Ehle). Rose Glass's debut film is an exquisite slice of religious horror, centred on an unexpected (and potentially provocative) premise: what would the opposite of demonic possession look like? Dir: Rose Glass, 84 mins, starring: Morfydd Clark, Jennifer Ehle, Lily Knight, Lily Frazer The UK release of writer-director Rose Glass's splendidly creepy horror film was delayed by Covid-19, but it is arriving in British cinemas in good time for Halloween. Maud (Morfydd Clark) is a private nurse hired to look after Amanda Kohl (Jennifer Ehle), an imperious dancer, choreographer and minor celebrity, now bed-bound and suffering from a terminal illness.

Morfydd Clark in the creepy Saint Maud (Photo: A24 Films/AP) Glass leaves it up to the audience to work out whether something truly diabolical is going on or whether Maud is having a breakdown as a result of her extreme unhappiness and isolation. Saint Maud, the debut feature from Rose Glass, builds an unrelenting state of dread over its taut 84-minute running time. Saint Maud follows a young palliative care nurse named Maud (an astonishing Morfydd Clark) caring for a former dancer, Amanda (Jennifer Ehle), who has terminal cancer. "In the beginning, what I came up with was basically, 'young woman hears the voice of God inside her head, and falls in love with him'," says Glass. "I was obsessed with that whole trilogy, and I think it was the first time I started tracking down behind-the-scenes featurettes." Her family then bought a video camera, and Glass spent her childhood making home movies with two school friends.

The first kernel of Saint Maud began as Glass was finishing her Masters at the National Film and Television School. "Regardless of whether people now look back and say, maybe this is just the result of some obscure neurological glitch in her head, at the time, people thought she really was communing with God. But in a way, from her perspective, it's kind of irrelevant, because she experiences what she experiences. "Several times throughout the film, when Maud talks to God, she has these ecstatic episodes, where she seems to be filled with some sort of orgasmic kind of thing. While Glass says there has been some kickback from religious viewers, making Saint Maud has actually softened her perspective on religion. "I feel like I'm much less of a hardened cynic than I was when I was first making the film," she says. "I personally don't believe in God in the sense of there being some kind of conscious being who has any sort of moral stake or opinion, but the idea of there being some big, as-of-yet unidentifiable force that you somehow come into connection with, I think taps into something.