Student Pages attends Press Screening of Warner Bros. Salt Burn

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Emerald Fennels’ SaltBurn pokes gloriously dark fun at the ultra-elite, combining well written dialogue with some of the most beautiful cinematography to hit our screens this year.

Fennel’s second directorial venture takes us on a journey of outsider Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan) and Felix Catton unlikely friendship. The duo meet at Oxford University in their first year; establishing Oliver as an outsider to the British social elite, Felix takes pity upon Quick’s tragic homelife (consisting of neglecting and drug-addled parents) and offers him a place to stay over the summer break following the untimely death of Oliver’s father. Felix’s ‘place’, it turns out, is a stalely home in Saltburn, North Yorkshire. After some initial teething problems, Oliver falls head first into the strange world of English Aristocracy.

Fennel is no stranger to criticising society’s untouchable (see her first film ‘Promising Young Woman’), this shows spectacularly within the dry humour spattered throughout the screenplay – special credit needs to be given here to Rosamund Pike’s supporting role as Felix’s mother. This snide attitude towards aristocracies’ laissez-faire attitude to real-world problems continues through the physical jokes placed strategically throughout the film too. Fennel has a real talent for ‘showing’, rather than ‘telling’ the narrative, driving the plot forward making the story delightfully paced.

On this topic, you may have already been bombarded by ‘fan-cams’ of the Saltburn cast, draped seductively over antique furniture. I am pleased to say there is plenty more content within the film itself, each shot more beautifully staged than the last, with the incredibly talented actors complimenting each other and the script wonderfully. Each visual motif is perfectly attended too, and each metaphor is wrapped up a delivered to the audience before the finale. It is clear inspiration was taken from American Modern Classics lamenting the Lost Generation, with a specific nod to Fitzgerald’s trademark grandeur and demise in Gatsby.

I could go on here about Keoghan’s and Elordi’s performances here for paragraphs, but I’ll keep things short by mentioning how delightful it is to see Keoghan fully cemented into a leading role, and that Elordi’s accent and upper class demeaner was so accurate it ignited a special rage within me that was definitely intended by the director. The sexual tension was well placed and weaved itself perfectly into the struggle for power, lifestyle, and wealth that terrorises Keoghan’s character.

SPOILER: I will preface that I took issue with the ‘twist’ in the plot. After taking a call from Oliver’s mother, Felix drives them both to visit Oliver’s parents for his birthday, whereupon he finds that Oliver has lied about his upbringing and instead has a rather comfy middle-class background. As the receiver of stories from fleeting interactions with individuals at university who claim they’re ‘working class’s whilst having attending private schools without financial assistance and own holiday homes in other continents, this rubbed me the wrong way. However, this is simply personal preference.

This doesn’t take away from the movie itself too much overall, though. If you’re a fan of beautiful people in beautiful films that do terrible things, Saltburn is for you.

By Grace Sanders – Film Critic & Student Pages Podcast Host

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