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The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

‘Saltburn’: Disturbing or masterpiece?

Courtesy of Village Cinemas

Saltburn,” directed by Emerald Fennell and released in November 2023, stars Barry Keoghan as Oliver Quick, Jacob Elordi as Felix Catton, Rosamund Pike as Elspeth Catton, Richard E. Grant as Sir James Catton, Archie Madekwe as Farleigh Start and Alison Oliver as Venetia Catton. 

“Saltburn” is rated R and has received 71% on Rotten Tomatoes. In the two months since its release, this movie has caught the attention of viewers in an interesting way. 

Many people have described the movie as predictable and overly sexual. However, the symbolism and plot twists throughout the story tug at the minds of an attentive audience. The mixed reviews of the film have made it one of the most talked-about movies of 2023.  

One audience reviewer on Rotten Tomatoes described the film as “a deep exploration of individual struggles meshing with larger social conventions of class, taste and wealth.”  

Another reviewer wrote that the film was “depraved garbage. A waste of time.” 

People’s hesitation from watching the film comes from its presence on social media. Viewers are warned about certain scenes and while the R rating is for sexual content, language and drug use, as well as violence, each viewer’s level of tolerance will vary. 

The eerie and suspenseful opening sets the tone for the film, every scene and character is drenched in dramatics. The story is told from Oliver’s point of view, and as Oliver gets to know each character, the audience discovers more, too, about the people he is getting closer to. 

Oliver’s point of view is an important reminder to the audience that one can only see as much as the storyteller allows them to. While in the beginning of the film, Oliver seemed to be shy and struggling with low self-esteem, he turns out to be manipulative and obsessed with Felix and the Catton family’s power, money and influence. 

Each character is unique in how they respond to Oliver. Farleigh seems to be the one person who sees Oliver for who he truly is from the beginning. While Farleigh may be an interesting character that takes time to digest, one cannot deny Madekwe’s comedic ability in this role.  

Later in the film, Venetia compares Oliver to a moth fluttering against a window — a harmless, quiet thing that is attracted to the shininess of the inside, desperate to get in. 

There are several hidden messages and moments of foreshadowing in the film, forcing the audience to pay close attention to what is happening on screen. For example, Venetia is seen overpouring a glass of wine, the red liquid flowing over the edge of the glass and onto the table. This image reflects her death in a bathtub of her blood. 

Keoghan and Elordi have a fascinating connection on and off-screen. In an interview between the two, both said they were drawn to the film because of Fennell and each other.  

“Barry is like pure electricity when he acts, and you really don’t know sort of what’s going to happen in a scene, so you have to be on your toes, and I really appreciated that,” Elordi said in another interview, with Collider. 

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