Saltburn (film)

2023 film by Emerald Fennell

  • Emerald Fennell
  • Josey McNamara
  • Margot Robbie
Starring
  • Barry Keoghan
  • Jacob Elordi
  • Rosamund Pike
  • Richard E. Grant
  • Alison Oliver
  • Archie Madekwe
CinematographyLinus SandgrenEdited byVictoria BoydellMusic byAnthony Willis
Production
companies
  • Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
  • MRC
  • Lie Still
  • LuckyChap Entertainment
Distributed by
  • Amazon MGM Studios (United States)
  • Warner Bros. Pictures (United Kingdom/Ireland)
Release dates
  • 31 August 2023 (2023-08-31) (Telluride)
  • 17 November 2023 (2023-11-17) (United Kingdom and United States)
Running time
131 minutes[1]Countries
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
LanguageEnglishBox office$21 million[2][3]

Saltburn is a 2023 black comedy psychological thriller film written, directed, and co-produced by Emerald Fennell, starring Barry Keoghan, Jacob Elordi, Rosamund Pike, Richard E. Grant, Alison Oliver, and Archie Madekwe. Set in Oxford and Northamptonshire, it focuses on a student at Oxford who becomes fixated with a popular, aristocratic fellow student, who later invites him to spend the summer at his eccentric family's estate.[4][5][6][7]

Saltburn premiered at the 50th Telluride Film Festival on 31 August 2023, then was released theatrically in the United Kingdom on 17 November 2023, and in the United States via a limited theatrical release on the same day. The film had its wide release on 22 November before its streaming release by Amazon Prime Video on 22 December, on which it became one of the most-streamed films.[8] It received mixed reviews from critics and several accolades, including nominations for two Golden Globe Awards and five BAFTA Film Awards.

Plot

In late 2006,[9] scholarship student Oliver Quick struggles to fit in at the University of Oxford because of his inexperience with upper-class manners. He befriends Felix Catton, an affluent and popular student who is sympathetic to Oliver's stories of his parents' substance abuse and mental health issues. When Oliver becomes distraught over his father's sudden death, Felix comforts him and invites him to spend the summer at his family's country house, Saltburn.

At Saltburn, Oliver meets Felix's eccentric parents Sir James and Lady Elspeth, his sister Venetia and Elspeth's friend Pamela, as well as Felix's American cousin Farleigh, with whom Oliver has had a tense relationship as classmates at Oxford. Oliver quickly wins over Felix's family (except for Farleigh) and his obsession with Felix grows. One night, after watching Felix masturbate in a bathtub, he lustfully drinks the semen-laced bathwater. Later, having seen Venetia waiting outside his bedroom window, he performs oral sex on her while she is on her period. Farleigh witnesses this and informs Felix, but Oliver claims nothing happened when Felix confronts him. At night, Oliver initiates sexual advances on Farleigh, threatening him in the process. The next morning, James evicts Farleigh after receiving a report from Sotheby's about his intention to sell some of James's valuables.

As the summer ends, Elspeth and James plan a party for Oliver's birthday. Felix surprises Oliver with a trip to see his estranged mother, causing Oliver to panic. Upon arriving at the family's house in Prescot, Felix realises that Oliver lied to him about his upbringing—his father is still alive; neither of his parents are substance abusers; and they live in a respectable middle-class suburb. Horrified and hurt by Oliver's deception, Felix decides not to tell anyone to spare his own family the humiliation, but orders Oliver to leave Saltburn after the party. During the celebrations, Oliver seeks to make amends with Felix by expressing his adoration for him. Felix rejects him and suggests he seeks help.

The next morning, Felix is found dead in Saltburn's hedge maze. Oliver implies Felix's death was connected to Farleigh supplying drugs during the party, and James withdraws financial support from Farleigh and bans him from returning. Oliver mourns Felix and visits his grave alone, where he places flowers, lies naked on the grave soil and masturbates on it.

After Felix's funeral, Elspeth insists that Oliver extend his stay at Saltburn. Venetia, increasingly distraught and disturbed, accuses Oliver of destroying her family, calling him a moth, a serf and a spider. He attempts to placate her, but she eventually rebuffs him, disturbed by his behavior. The next day, Venetia is found dead, having slit her wrists in the bathtub. Despondent over Oliver's continuing presence at Saltburn and Elspeth's closeness to him, James bribes him to leave, which Oliver accepts.

In 2022, Oliver reads about James's death in a newspaper. He subsequently has what appears to be a chance encounter with Elspeth at a café. She is delighted to see him again, insisting he return with her to Saltburn. After spending several months with Oliver, Elspeth becomes terminally ill. At her deathbed, Oliver confides in Elspeth that he is responsible for all the tragic events at Saltburn. He had orchestrated his meeting with Felix at Oxford and even planned his encounter with Elspeth at the café, after which she bequeathed all her assets, including Saltburn, to him. Oliver comforts Elspeth and then murders her by removing her life support. Having now assumed ownership of Saltburn and the Catton family fortune, he happily dances naked around the mansion.

Cast

Production

Development and casting

Writer and director Emerald Fennell

Saltburn is the second film written and directed by Emerald Fennell, after Promising Young Woman (2020).[9] By January 2022, Tom Ackerley and Margot Robbie's LuckyChap Entertainment was in talks to produce, after collaborating with Fennell on her previous film.[10] In May 2022, Ackerley, Robbie, and Josey McNamara were confirmed as producers, while Rosamund Pike, Jacob Elordi, and Barry Keoghan joined the cast.[11][12] Fennell said that Australian actor Elordi "...did the most exceptional audition... He did such a genius, genius bit of observational comedy. He really really understood that for all of [Felix's] beauty and charisma, he's just sort of a spoiled little boy. He came in and just absolutely blew us all away".[13]

Carey Mulligan, star of Promising Young Woman, was revealed to be part of the cast in December 2022.[14]

In writing the film, Fennell wanted to sympathise with unlikeable people, saying

"the sorts of people that we can't stand, the sorts of people who are abhorrent—if we can love them, if we can fall in love with these people, if we can understand why this is so alluring, in spite of its palpable cruelty and unfairness and sort of strangeness, if we all want to be there too, I think that's just such an interesting dynamic."

She had long wanted to make her own version of films and books set in a country house, and set the film in 2006 to "really [knock] the fucking glamour off things" by setting it in the recent past.[15]

Filming

Drayton House in Northamptonshire was used as a primary filming location

Filming began on 16 July 2022, with Linus Sandgren serving as cinematographer.[16] The film is shown in a 4:3 aspect ratio, with Fennell saying it gives the impression of "peeping in."[15]

Fennell was determined not to film in an estate familiar to viewers, and wanted to set the movie in one location, so aligning the filming with the film's plot, saying, "It was important to me that we were all in there together, that the making of the film in some way had that feeling of a summer where everyone loses their mind together...I didn't want to be constantly picking up and moving." and avoiding the need for post-production adjustments due to multiple locations.[15] Fennell was successful, with filming occurring at the University of Oxford at Magdalen College, St Hugh's College and Brasenose College and in Drayton House, Northamptonshire,[17][18] which had never been used for a film before. As part of the contract, no one was allowed to reveal the location of the house or the identity of its owners. Despite the house's opulence, the actors ultimately became familiar with Drayton's interiors over the course of filming and comfortable working in it, in order to convey the idea that this grand location was for their characters completely normal and simply their home.[15]

Costumes were designed with 2000s fashion displayed in the form of ostentatious jackets, rugby shirts, and loud jewellery.[13]

Music

The film is scored by Anthony Willis, who previously scored Fennell's Promising Young Woman. The soundtrack was released by Milan Records on 17 November 2023.

Sophie Ellis-Bextor's 2001 song "Murder on the Dancefloor" was featured in the last scene of the film.[19][20] As a result, the song received 1.5 million streams on New Year's Eve on Spotify[21][22] and subsequently re-entered the UK Singles Chart at number eight on 5 January 2024 with 2.2 million streams, marking the song's best-ever streaming week.[23] The film also features Mason and Princess Superstar's 2006 track "Perfect (Exceeder)" and Tomcraft's 2002 track "Loneliness" which, in addition to "Murder on the Dancefloor", became trending songs, particularly on TikTok.[24][25]

Themes and influences

The film focuses on excess and obsession. Fennell stated "I drew from my own experience of being a human person, who has felt that thing we all feel at that time in our life which is that absolute insane grip of obsessive love...But obviously I didn't quite go to the lengths that some of the people [in the film] do".[13]

Discussing the film's influences, Fennell has cited A Clockwork Orange (1971),[26] Cruel Intentions (1999),[26] Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca (1938),[26] and the novel The Go-Between (1953) by L.P. Hartley and its 1971 film adaptation.[26][27] She commented, "I think that I was sort of looking more at that British Country House tradition of The Go-Between and that sort of very specific British... sort of Joseph Losey world, where class and power and sex all kind of collide in one specific place".[28] Fennell cited Losey's The Servant (1963) as an influence because of its "undeniable erotic power" that "relies entirely on the threat of violence — not just literal violence, but a complete chaotic upending of the status quo".[29]

Patricia Highsmith's novel The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955) and its film adaptation (1999) have been oft-cited as an influence by critics due to the common themes of social class and the similarities between Oliver and Tom Ripley,[30][31][32] though Fennell herself has downplayed these comparisons.[28] Richard Brody of The New Yorker also found similarities to the novel Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh.[33]

Some critics also pointed out that rich stylisation and visual influences in the film hold some aesthetic influences from Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) and Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980).[34] According to these critics Fennell's Gothic visual style in general mirrors the mythical elements of Coppola's 1992 Dracula film about otherworldly seduction: the Saltburn garden scene especially parallels the carnal possessions of Lucy (Sadie Frost) and Mina (Winona Ryder), who are cosmically drawn to Gary Oldman’s Count Dracula; he inevitably sucks their energies away in a slow sapping of desire after luring each into the garden not of Eden but sin.[35]Saltburn has been billed as a sort of “vampire movie” by filmmaker Fennell herself.[36]

Other critics have found similarities to Pier Paolo Pasolini's film Theorem (1968) and Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon (1975), which also addressed themes of class, power, desire, and seduction.[37][38][39] Fennell described her satire of the British class system as "Barry Lyndon meets indie sleaze".[29]

Release

Saltburn had its world premiere at the 50th Telluride Film Festival on 31 August 2023.[40][41] It premiered in the United Kingdom (UK) as the opening film of the 67th BFI London Film Festival on 4 October 2023.[42] It also premiered in Australia at SXSW Sydney on 20 October 2023.[43]

In the United States, Saltburn was given a limited release on 17 November 2023, followed by a wide release by Amazon MGM Studios on 22 November 2023.[30] It was originally scheduled to be released on 24 November 2023, but was moved up a week to take advantage of the initial positive response it received at its Telluride premiere.[44]

Warner Bros. Pictures handled the UK and Ireland release of Saltburn, with a 16 November release in Australia and a 17 November release in the UK.[45][46] The film became available to stream on Amazon Prime Video on 22 December 2023.[47][48]

Reception

Box office

As of 17 January 2024[update], Saltburn had grossed $11.4 million in the United States and Canada, and $9.6 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $21 million.[2][3]

In its limited opening weekend, the film made $322,651 from seven theatres.[49] Expanding to 1,566 theatres the following Wednesday, the wide expansion of the film was released alongside Napoleon and Wish, and made $684,000 on its first day of wide release and then $301,000 on Thanksgiving Day. Its debut made $1.8 million on the weekend (and a total of $2.9 million over the five-day frame), finishing in ninth.[50] The film dropped just 16% the following weekend, grossing $1.6 million.[51]

Critical response

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 71% of 284 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 6.8/10. The website's consensus reads: "Emerald Fennell's candy-coated and incisive Saltburn is a debauched jolt to the senses that will be invigorating for most."[52] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 61 out of 100, based on 53 critics. Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B−" on an "A+" to "F" scale, and those polled by PostTrak gave it a 75% overall positive score, and 42% said they would definitely recommend it.[50]

The Guardian reviewed the film after its August premiere and again after its release. Peter Bradshaw gave it three out of five. He noted that it "boasts dazzling turns from Rosamund Pike and Carey Mulligan" but that "the heavily drawn-out ending feels uncertain".[53] Wendy Ide wrote that it "stars a miscast Barry Keoghan (he's way too old for the role)" but that "Rosamund Pike, as Felix's mother Elspeth, is gloriously rude; Archie Madekwe, as poor relation Farleigh, is a malicious delight". She awarded it two out of five.[54]

Nicholas Barber, reviewing for the BBC, enjoyed the "outrageous, laugh-out-loud punchlines" but felt that "Fennell is prone to fumble" plot twists. Barber praised the "superb ensemble cast", especially Keoghan ("magnetic"), Pike ("steals the show"), and Elordi ("a revelation"). He concluded that "if you see it as a lurid pulp fantasy rather than a penetrating satire, then Saltburn is deliriously enjoyable" and awarded it four out of five.[7] Empire also praised the charismatic ensemble cast and gave the film three out of five. In her review, Sophie Butcher reported that "Saltburn looks divine. Fennell's eye is extraordinary, and alongside cinematographer Linus Sandgren, she captures the grand beauty of her architectural locations impeccably" but was disappointed that "scenes often build to reach the cusp of something truly electric, but are let down by clunky dialogue".[55]

Writing in Sight and Sound, Sophie Monks Kaufman found that "the story's superficial treatment of its characters ... becomes increasingly ruinous" and that "the most menacing thing anyone can muster here is a passive-aggressive karaoke choice". She was also underwhelmed by the film's "ostentatious visual language".[6] However, Entertainment Weekly columnist Maureen Lee Lenker gave Saltburn an "A", saying the film is a "Gothic thriller dusted with poisonous candy-pop glitter…Its endless visual and literary layers will bring its ardent admirers back to it again and again, because it is a triumph of the cinema of excess, in all its orgiastic, unapologetic glory."[56]

Accolades

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref.
Mill Valley Film Festival 16 October 2023 Filmmaker of the Year Emerald Fennell Won [57]
Savannah Film Festival 2 November 2023 Audience Award Saltburn Won [58]
Hollywood Music in Media Awards 15 November 2023 Original Score – Feature Film Anthony Willis Nominated [59]
Las Vegas Film Critics Society 13 December 2023 Best Supporting Actress Rosamund Pike Nominated [60]
Best Cinematography Linus Sandgren Nominated
Best Ensemble Saltburn Nominated
Indiana Film Journalists Association 17 December 2023 Best Cinematography Linus Sandgren Nominated [61]
[62]
Dublin Film Critics' Circle 18 December 2023 Best Actor Barry Keoghan 7th Place [63]
North Texas Film Critics Association 18 December 2023 Best Picture Saltburn Nominated [64]
Best Director Emerald Fennell Nominated
Best Actor Barry Keoghan Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Rosamund Pike Nominated
Best Cinematography Linus Sandgren Nominated
Best Newcomer Allison Oliver Nominated
Garry Murray Award for Best Ensemble Saltburn Nominated
Phoenix Film Critics Society 18 December 2023 Top Ten Films of 2023 Won [65]
Women Film Critics Circle Awards 18 December 2023 Best Movie by a Woman Runner-up [66]
Best Woman Storyteller Emerald Fennell Nominated
Alliance of Women Film Journalists 3 January 2024 Best Actress in a Supporting Role Rosamund Pike Nominated [67]
Best Woman Director Emerald Fennell Nominated
Best Woman Screenwriter Nominated
Astra Film and Creative Awards 6 January 2024 Best Actor Barry Keoghan Nominated [68]
Best Director Emerald Fennell Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Nominated
26 February 2024 Best Cinematography Linus Sandgren Nominated
Best Production Design Suzie Davies and Charlotte Dirickx Nominated
Best Score Anthony Willis Nominated
Golden Globe Awards 7 January 2024 Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama Barry Keoghan Nominated [69]
Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Rosamund Pike Nominated
Denver Film Critics Society 12 January 2024 Best Director Emerald Fennell Nominated [70]
Best Lead Performance by an Actor, Male Barry Keoghan Nominated
Best Supporting Performance by an Actor, Female Rosamund Pike Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Emerald Fennell Nominated
Critics' Choice Movie Awards 14 January 2024 Best Picture Saltburn Nominated [71]
Best Cinematography Linus Sandgren Nominated
Best Production Design Suzie Davies and Charlotte Dirickx Nominated
Houston Film Critics Society 22 January 2024 Best Supporting Actress Rosamund Pike Nominated [72]
[73]
Best Cinematography Linus Sandgren Nominated
British Society of Cinematographers 3 February 2024 Best Cinematography in a Theatrical Feature Film Linus Sandgren Nominated [74]
London Film Critics' Circle 4 February 2024 Supporting Actress of the Year Rosamund Pike Nominated [75]
British/Irish Performer of the Year Carey Mulligan (also for Maestro) Nominated
Technical Achievement Award Kharmel Cochrane Nominated
AACTA International Awards 10 February 2024 Best Supporting Actor Jacob Elordi Nominated [76]
Best Supporting Actress Rosamund Pike Nominated
ADG Excellence in Production Design Awards 10 February 2024 Excellence in Production Design for a Contemporary Film Suzie Davies Won [77]
Set Decorators Society of America Awards 13 February 2024 Best Achievement in Décor/Design of a Contemporary Feature Film Suzie Davies and Charlotte Dirickx Won [78]
Society of Composers & Lyricists 13 February 2024 Outstanding Original Score for a Studio Film Anthony Willis Nominated [79]
BAFTA Awards 18 February 2024 Best Actor in a Leading Role Barry Keoghan Nominated [80]
Best Actor in a Supporting Role Jacob Elordi Nominated
Best Actress in a Supporting Role Rosamund Pike Nominated
Best Original Score Anthony Willis Nominated
Outstanding British Film Saltburn Nominated
People's Choice Awards 18 February 2024 The Movie Performance of the Year Jacob Elordi Nominated [81]
Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild 18 February 2024 Best Contemporary Make-Up Siân Miller, Laura Allen Won [82]
Best Contemporary Hair Styling Won
Costume Designers Guild Awards 21 February 2024 Excellence in Contemporary Film Sophie Canale Pending [83]
Satellite Awards 3 March 2024 Best Actor – Motion Picture Comedy or Musical Barry Keoghan Pending [84]
Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Rosamund Pike Pending
Best Cinematography Linus Sandgren Pending

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External links

  • Official website Edit this at Wikidata
  • Saltburn at IMDb Edit this at Wikidata
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