Words & interview

Hannah Strong


Illustration by

Polina Jakimova

Rose Glass: ‘Like every director, there’s a god complex somewhere’

The director of the storming after hours classic-in-the-making, Love Lies Bleeding, on the strange worlds of crime and bodybuilding.

After achieving critical acclaim for her breakout debut Saint Maud, Rose Glass teamed up with Kristen Stewart for a rough-n-ready romp in the New Mexico desert. The result is Love Lies Bleeding – a thriller about girls and guns, both the literal and metaphorical kind.

LWLies: There’s a real ‘midnight movie’ feel to Love Lies Bleeding – like the sort of thing that you’d stumble across as a teenager on late-night television that would change your entire world. Are there any films that felt like that for you when you were younger?

Glass: Yeah, loads, but they sort of fell into different categories – the films which made me go, ‘I think I want to make films,’ and then the ones which are more what you’re referring to, which are on TV at night when you should have gone to bed. I feel like this is the film that teenage me would have been most excited to know that they would eventually make – there are a lot of things in this which reflect some weird nerd teenage longing. Showgirls was one of those films I did randomly stumble across probably late night on Channel 4 or 5 or something when I was probably too young to watch it and didn’t get it, but it definitely made an impression.

You gave your cast some films that you felt could be set in the same universe as Love Lies Bleeding, and Showgirls was on the list, as was Crash. Are you big into Cronenberg?

He’s actually one of my favourite filmmakers. Crash in particular – I saw it and then read the book and that came quite early on when I realised body horror and things going wrong with bodies and people’s brains was the sort of the stuff that I found the most exciting to see unfolding on screen. Weirdly with Crash, the thing that I thought was maybe useful to show to my actors was less about the actual, bodily stuff that happens, and more about the demeanour of everyone in the film. That and Showgirls, they’re both played straight, earnestly, but have this knowing weirdness permeating everything. All the characters share the thing of feeling as if they’re just constantly excited or aroused like their energies are very close to their skin.

Aside from Pumping Iron there aren’t many mainstream films about the world of bodybuilding. What surprised you the most during your research?

While we were in America I went to a couple of bodybuilding shows, which was fascinating and so much fun. It was not until I was actually there watching a live competition that I properly appreciated the theatricality and performance art side of it, because they have these line-ups and there’s a box-ticking part with this set number of poses, but then there’s a point where the contestants do their own routines. And it becomes a bit like impressionist dance, or ice skating or gymnastics. Even looking at each song choice and the tone of their performance, it seemed to give such a fascinating little glimpse into what each of those competitors was like or how they felt about what they do. Some of them are very campy and fun, and they’ll pick some big famous ’80s song that everyone knows, and it’s a little bit more wink-wink and humorous, but then there were a couple which would do these very emotional feeling, very beautiful performances. There’s just something strange and fascinating about it.

Saint Maud and Love Lies Bleeding are very different in tone and story, but both have this obsession with bodily discipline and the temptation of the flesh. How aware were you of the connective tissue between them while writing?

When I first started talking to Weronika [Tofilska, co-writer] about the idea, I think there was more connective tissue with Saint Maud because, in the very beginning, I hadn’t conceived of it as being such a big-scale story. I was thinking of it as a one or two-hander about a bodybuilder losing her mind as she trains for a competition, but it felt a little bit too similar to Saint Maud. But Jackie and Maud are both characters who are trying to transform themselves via a kind of self-discipline, and shaping how they want to be seen by others. Maybe this is a simplistic way of looking at bodybuilding, but there is this idea of getting yourself to look almost like a statue, and that fits in with this idea of someone who wants to transform herself into a kind of icon, or a god, which is something that’s in Saint Maud as well. I don’t know what that says about me – like every director, there’s a god complex somewhere.

Published 30 Apr 2024

Tags: Love Lies Bleeding Rose Glass

Suggested For You

How we trained the cockroach in Saint Maud

By Grace Dickinson

Grace Dickinson reveals how she wrangled the skin-crawling star performer of Rose Glass’ psychodrama.

Saint Maud

By Anton Bitel

A pious young nurse experiences an extreme crisis of faith in writer/director Rose Glass’ arresting psychodrama.

review LWLies Recommends

Love Lies Bleeding review – hot, dirty, fast, combustible

By Hannah Strong

Kristen Stewart and Katy O'Brien are on fire as star-crossed lovers who get into a sweaty mess in Rose Glass's lurid '80s throwback thriller.

review LWLies Recommends

Little White Lies Logo

About Little White Lies

Little White Lies was established in 2005 as a bi-monthly print magazine committed to championing great movies and the talented people who make them. Combining cutting-edge design, illustration and journalism, we’ve been described as being “at the vanguard of the independent publishing movement.” Our reviews feature a unique tripartite ranking system that captures the different aspects of the movie-going experience. We believe in Truth & Movies.