Featuring: Barry Keoghan, Jacob Elordi, Archie Madekwe, Sadie Soverall, Richard E. Grant, Rosamund Pike, Carey Mulligan
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Thriller
Director: Emerald Fennell
In Cinemas: 17th November 2023
A student at Oxford University finds himself drawn into the world of a charming and aristocratic classmate, who invites him to his eccentric family’s sprawling estate for a summer never to be forgotten.
Set in 2006, From the opening few minutes, there is a strong sense of influence on several past movies, including The Talented Mr.Ripley (1999), Emerald Fennell’s previous film Promising Young Woman (2020) and bizarrely enough, the Harry Potter Franchise. We first meet Oliver Quick (Keoghan), who is struggling to find his place at Oxford University. There is undoubtedly a homage to Harry Potter and a perspective on it from a mature, modern-day aspect. At first, the idea seems ridiculous, but we later see the characters sit around while reading the Harry Potter books, which shows some attempt to acknowledge the boy wizard. Saltburn always has some peculiar differences in scene setting or character building; it is not normal or relatable but strikingly appealing when viewing something unfamiliar to the audience. Tension and awkwardness between people and situations present themselves when faced with diverse opinions. Fennell does so well in capturing the entitlement of the wealthy and the privileged compared to the opposite. There is an excellent scene in which Oliver (Keoghan) orders eggs from around the dining table from the bulter at the house (Saltburn). When the food comes out not to his liking, there is this unnecessary argument around the breakfast about his attitude and handling of the situation, and there are plenty of moments throughout the film that tackle that contrast of entitlement from all social classes.
Suppose there were one or two words to summarise this film; it would be Obsession Power and Total Insanity, OK, maybe four words. Obsession is explored so vibrantly and disturbingly in almost every scene that it becomes unsettling to watch. There’s always this infatuation that Oliver has with Felix (Jacob Elordi), and a scene involving a bath draining water comes to mind. Although his behaviour is ludicrous and concerning, it gives us the narrative of the direction his character is evolving by being adopted into this world of absurd greed and obscurity. There is no doubt that Emerald Fennell has taken a more edgy approach to her new filmmaking career, and the evidence is shown here and in her previous film, Promising Young Woman (2020). The bath scene was mentioned already, but one other moment that seemed not needed was when Oliver performs oral sex to a young girl, and he uses the line ‘I’m a vampire’. The shock value is there, but the requirement is not, and there is a constant controversial theme throughout the film that feels overambitious and compulsory. We are already engaged in the story, and it feels almost staged when something is practically forced upon its audience.
There is always that wickedness engrained into Barry Keoghan’s character, and he is excellent at displaying that in his relationship with Jacob Elordi. Saltburn is the most bizarre film released this year, and when some parts don’t work and seem flat, the continuous recovery always succeeds. The beauty and detail in every scene are visually stunning; these big, wide shots always capture the space and emptiness in certain moods and criteria of characters and moments. It has a repetitiveness, but it fits into the overall take-home message on social classes and privilege and what level a person would go through to achieve success and recognition. There is always that obliviousness and silly opinions of the natural world from wealthy people, which can get exhausting when repeated. But the film’s ending does sum up the creativity and originality used and attempted when delivering a different approach to power and greed. The film is a big culprit in showing or spoonfeeding us things that we might not need to know or could have already figured out. There is that sense of ignorance when not allowing or trusting the audience to piece together the story logically. Nevertheless, Saltburn is bold, beautiful, absolutely bonkers and well worth watching.