Masterpiece or Monstrosity?

New film strikes controversy because of vulgar scenes and appalling themes.

Jacob Elordi and Barry Keoghan star in the new thriller, “Saltburn,” which has been leaving viewers disturbed and intrigued by its rough and uncomfortable plot. The film, directed by Emerald Fennell and produced by Margot Robbie, has taken the world by storm, shocking viewers with vulgar scenes and evoking mixed reviews. 

“Saltburn” follows two young men, Felix (Elordi) and Oliver (Keoghan), who meet at the University of Oxford in England and quickly become good friends. They share their life stories and trauma, bringing them very close to each other in an extremely short time. Their sudden closeness impacts both of their lives because they become so connected, as Oliver’s obsession for Felix grows. At one of their school events, Oliver mentions that he has nowhere to go for summer holiday because of family issues. Felix quickly jumps on the opportunity, inviting him to spend the summer with him and his family at their house, which they refer to as ‘Saltburn.’ Oliver accepts the offer and eventually entangles himself in their odd and scandalous family drama. 

In the United States alone, the film has made around $21.3 million dollars. With people rushing to see it in theaters and on Amazon Prime, the movie grew in popularity quickly, and most wanted to see it because of the top-notch actors. Following its release, the film has people in a craze around the world. With bizarre scenes, which many refer to as “the bathtub scene,” “the grave scene” and “the blood scene” all over social media, viewers of the film are either left disturbed or in awe of the work of art. While most were disturbed by certain scenes and themes in the movie, I surprisingly found myself applauding the masterful ability of the actors and producers to create such an attention-craving movie. It takes a substantial amount of professionalism to act in such a jarring film, and I certainly acclaim Elordi, Keoghan and other actors such as Rosamund Pike (Elspeth) and Alison Oliver (Venetia) for finding comfort in the uncomfortable plot. 

The drama and scandal of the film made for an awfully confusing yet engaging plotline, having viewers lost while simultaneously wanting more from the characters. Upon their arrival at Saltburn, each characters’ imperfections begin to unravel and are put on display. Felix Catton, played by Elordi, is an easy-going, friendly, and popular boy who grew up in a wealthy and sheltered home; because of this, he is easily manipulated and blindsided. The Catton family is made up of Elspeth Catton (Rosamund Pike), Sir James Catton (Richard E. Grant), and their children Felix, Venetia Catton (Alison Oliver), and cousin Farleigh (Archie Madekwe), who are all stuck up, odd and damaged characters. Together, they create a tense and awkward atmosphere, leaving Oliver to pick up the pieces with a family who is not his own. 

However, the film’s message is in question. With such a daring and bold plotline, the message gets lost in translation. The film appears to display an ‘eat the rich’ theme but falls short in many ways. While there are many elements of an ‘eat the rich’ tone, the message becomes mundane and unneeded when put up against the scandalous scenes and storyline. Because of the daring nature of the scenes, that’s all viewers seem to be focusing on, rather than seeing a greater theme. I would argue that Saltburn is more of an experience than a lesson. While it has the bones to be a lesson, viewers would have to reach and search for the message to focus on it the whole time, rather than letting the film and scenes speak for themselves. The film also attempts to dive into classist and elitist issues, which definitely shine through, but are drowned out by the edginess of the film.

The film is truly a mind-bender and really makes the viewer stop and think, not about anything philosophical or super influential in the film, but about the cinematography and skillful art of the movie. As a psychological thriller, the film allows for an uneasy feeling–I would recommend only watching the movie in the comfort of your own home, as opposed to seeing it in theaters with others around. It quickly got quite disturbing without warning. 

Because of the noteworthy cast and buzzing reviews, “Saltburn” calls for attention all around the world.​​ The movie has inspired many to take their opinions to social media, reviewing and discussing the film with other viewers. “Saltburn” is quite the acquired taste, but if you look past the disturbances and intrepid storyline and have an open mind while watching, you might be able to appreciate the controversial masterpiece that is “Saltburn.”

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