Saint Maud, the feature debut of Rose Glass, is remarkable for many reasons – but perhaps the new horror film’s most memorable moment is its shocking final scene.
The film, which follows a lonely nurse as she slowly slips into insanity, was released on the big screen last week, and many cinemagoers have found themselves terrified – if perhaps a little confused – by the final moments.
Read on for everything you need to know about the ending of Saint Maud. (Obviously, expect spoilers)
Saint Maud ending explained
In the closing sections of Saint Maud there are two extremely shocking moments.
First the title character, played by Morfydd Clark, murders her former patient Amanda in a gruesome fashion, appearing to grow golden angel wings shortly afterwards.
Then, in the very final scene we see her walking to the beach, where she pours acetone on herself and publicly sets herself on fire.
At this point we see two alternate versions of events: first we see them from Maud’s perspective, as she appears to ascend to heaven having fulfilled her earthly purpose, before we switch to the view of the public bystanders, who simply see her burst into flames.
To fully explain this let’s go back to the first incident – the murder of Amanda.
In the early sections of the film, Maud had been assigned to give palliative care to the terminally ill ex-dancer, having lost her previous job at the hospital after a horrible incident.
Maud has recently converted to Catholicism in a bid to find her purpose, and makes it her mission to save Amanda’s soul, as her patient is very cynical about the existence of a higher power.
As the film progresses – and Maud loses her job with Amanda – she begins to lose her grip on reality, and starts seeing things that the viewers understands are not really there.
In that climactic scene, Maud appears to believe that she really is saving Maud’s soul, hence her apparent growth of angel wings – but the truth is simply that she has murdered a sick woman.
Similarly, when she sets herself on fire, Maud believes that she really is being sent to heaven having fulfilled her duty, but in reality she is simply ending her life in a chilling and tragic manner.
What have the stars and director of the film said about the ending?
Fortunately both star Morfydd Clark and writer/director Rose Glass have weighed in with their explanations for the film’s final moments.
Speaking to Film Ink, Clark said, “I do love the idea that different people watching this will pick up on loads of different things depending on what their connection is with religion. Even though I didn’t go to church or anything like that, I definitely, as a woman, felt a lot of shame, probably, that comes from Catholicism and the church.
“Even if it’s not religion, I was interested in the more universal urge to feel beholden to a bigger force, and to submit yourself to an ideology that has rules and gives you guidelines of how you should and shouldn’t behave, and how the law works. You could get the same kind of thing through any group you join.”
Meanwhile Glass told Esquire that the ending could be a little more open to interpretation.
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how many people still think it feels very ambiguous,” she said. “The burning and snatch of reality was always how the film was going to end, and I’m hoping it happens so gradually that you don’t realise how far she’s fallen from reality until you’re there and you have this very hard juxtaposition.”
She added: “One of the execs asked how I want people to feel at the end and I said ‘guilty’. You’ve been having a bit of a giggle thinking ‘isn’t she strange’, but anybody who does anything as extreme as that must be suffering. It leads up to this cathartic moment with the character and then smacks you around the face with it.”
Saint Maud is showing in cinemas now. Find out what else to watch with our TV Guide.