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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Movie Review: “Saltburn”

A movie filled with obsession, deception and hunger in more ways than one

By ELIZABETH WOODHALL — arts@theaggie.org

 

“Saltburn” was released in theaters on Nov. 17, 2023 and has recently been added to Amazon Prime Video. It first premiered at the 50th Telluride Film Festival and has since won over critics, with several nominations at the 81st Golden Globes. 

The film is beautifully crafted by director, producer and screenwriter Emerald Fennell, with Jacob Elordi and Barry Keoghan acting as the male leads. Despite the film’s growing popularity due to various nude and sex-related scenes of Keoghan, this movie has a far more compelling story to tell. It shows how far obsession can take someone — even as far as the grave. 

Set in 2006, viewers see Oliver Quick (Keoghan) struggle to fit in as a student at the University of Oxford. Not only does he appear to be socially awkward, but he shares that he comes from a family that struggles with substance abuse and several mental health issues. 

Enter Felix (Elordi), an upper-class student who doesn’t seem to struggle to fit in at school and who takes an interest in Oliver after borrowing his bike. Later in the film, Oliver shares with Felix that his father has suddenly passed away. As Felix is left with the uncertainty of what to do next, he invites Oliver to his home in the countryside — Saltburn. 

Once Oliver arrives at the manor, there seems to be an eerie feeling that something isn’t right. Whether it’s the darker atmosphere, the creepy staff or the focused view of Oliver observing Felix in a seductive manner, the audience notices a shift in how Oliver behaves at Saltburn. Oliver doesn’t struggle at all when introduced to Felix’s family; in fact, he seems to get along with them fairly well. Not only is he charming, but he also provides a natural balance in the house and fits into the family dynamic comfortably. 

Even with trying to appeal to his family, they aren’t the only people Oliver is trying to appease as he becomes increasingly obsessed with Felix. This obsession is one that is both sexual and pervasive: not only does Oliver desire Felix sexually, he also desires to become him. 

Throughout the film, he continues to play up to his seemingly “humble” background in an effort to become closer to the family. However, this closeness surpasses the realm of normalcy when he observes Felix masturbating in the tub and drinks the bath water filled with semen. 

Oliver attempts to seduce other family members, including Venetia and Farleigh, Felix’s sister and cousin, respectively, but they are no strangers to his tricks. Things start to get more complicated when it’s revealed that Oliver has lied about his upbringing. Not only is his dad alive, but he grew up in an upper-middle-class family. This makes the viewers question his demeanor earlier in the film when he acted wary about entering the Oxford higher-education sphere. Oliver goes from a character who is pitied to a character whose obsession and deceitful nature are feared. 

Despite “Saltburn” growing in popularity because of the questionable sexually explicit scenes, this movie has many aspects that should drive viewers to go see it. Not only is the cast incredibly talented in this dark comedy, but the movie’s character’s close-up shots, scenery of the countryside and beautiful architecture all work together to make watchers move past discomfort to unveil the dark secrets Saltburn conceals. 

 

  

 Written by: Elizabeth Woodhall — arts@theaggie.org

 

 

 

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