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The Student News Site of Saint Louis University

The University News

The Student News Site of Saint Louis University

The University News

Seduction Meets Slaughter in Emerald Fennell’s Grisly “Saltburn”

A story of fixation and obsession reaches unthinkable lengths at the aesthetically-irresistible Saltburn estate.

“Saltburn,” a psychological thriller written, produced and directed by Emerald Fennell, transports viewers to Oxford University in 2006. Lonely and studious Oliver (Barry Keoghan) is ushered into a life of elitism after making nice with the alluring and evocative Felix (Jacob Elordi). After Oliver loans his bike to Felix, the two Oxford students develop an intimate friendship at warp speed. It is unclear if Oliver wants to be Felix or be with him, or perhaps both. Oliver transitions from the bookish outcast to one of the cool kids, integrating himself into Felix’s popular clique. After Oliver shares that his father has passed away, Felix extends an invitation for Oliver to go home with him for the summer. Oliver’s perception of Felix as a filthy-rich boy of high status takes on a whole new form when he visits the aristocratic family’s estate. The Baroque mansion is surrounded by a hedge maze known as the Labyrinth, ponds and lush gardens. The greatest merit of the film’s production is its dreamy and luxurious visuals. 

 

Upon arrival at the sprawling estate, Oliver meets the motley crew that is Felix’s family. Rosamund Pike embodies the definition of posh as Felix’s mother, Elsputh. Richard E. Grant plays a curiously cute and shallow Sir James, the head of the estate. The captivating yet tragic sister, Venitia, is played by Alison Oliver. Archie Madekwe plays Felix’s cousin, Farleigh, the outsider to the family and one of the first to catch onto Oliver’s strange antics. 

 

The summer goes seemingly well; the group spends their days by the pond, playing games and enjoying black-tie dinners in the comfort of their own home. Things take a horrendous turn at Oliver’s birthday party, a 200-person rave takes over the estate, complete with impressive “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”-themed costumes and cocaine around every corner. Until the party scene, the “psychological thriller” is puzzlingly un-thrilling. Oliver’s obsessive nature reaches new heights, making the film unnecessarily dark. Though visually impressive, scenes become perversely graphic and disturbing. After the first major twist, viewers could assume the rest of what will come. The unsettling sexual scenes lack eroticism, urging watchers to look away rather than get sucked in. Each shock serves as fleeting sensations, rather than a catalyst for contemplation.  Emerald Fennell stimulates viewers with opulent styling rather than a compelling plot. Impeccable production is the redeeming value that makes “Saltburn” a cinematic experience well-worth viewing.

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An assumed commentary on the rich, “Saltburn” says more about the lonesome souls who commit unconscionable and depraved acts that violate nearly every moral code in the book. It contributes to the illusion that the rich are figures detached from the struggles and vulnerabilities that unite humanity.  Expect rich visuals, entrancing characters, and devilishly twisted sequences. 

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About the Contributor
MC Pavlick, Fundraising Chair
MC Pavlick (she/her/hers) is a senior majoring in Public Health, with a minor in Urban Poverty Studies specializing in Healthcare. Originally from Cincinnati, OH, she currently serves as the Fundraising Chair for UNews. In her free time, MC loves to cook, make pottery, and check out local art shows.
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