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Westwood Horizon

The student news site of Westwood High School.

Westwood Horizon

The student news site of Westwood High School.

Westwood Horizon

‘Saltburn’ Brings Visually Rich Portrayal of Privilege and Hedonism to Screen

Saltburn%2C+directed+by+Emerald+Fennel%2C+premiered+in+theaters+on+Nov.+17%2C+2023.+It+follows+the+perspective+of+Oxford+student+Oliver+Quick+during+his+stay+at+his+wealthy+friends+estate.+
Hadley Norris
Saltburn, directed by Emerald Fennel, premiered in theaters on Nov. 17, 2023. It follows the perspective of Oxford student Oliver Quick during his stay at his wealthy friend’s estate.

Many people describe walking into the theater for Emerald Fennell’s latest film Saltburn with no clue what they were about to witness, their prior knowledge consisting solely of what they remembered from the vague trailer and the fact that it starred Euphoria and A24 Priscilla’s beloved Jacob Elordi. The internet characterized it as a disturbing and shocking film; however, it ultimately proved to be an intriguing tale that one couldn’t help but become deeply invested in. 

Saltburn begins with Oxford student Oliver Quick (played by Barry Keoghan) befriending Felix Catton (played by Jacob Elordi) who eventually invites Quick to his family’s estate Saltburn. The film follows the series of events that occur during Oliver’s stay.  

Saltburn was a brilliantly crafted film. It was stunning, mirroring classic gothic literature and art, while contrasting this with the messy glamor of the 2000s. But beyond the immersive, this film provided an insightful portrayal of the wealthy’s gilded lifestyle, while undermining it with a parasitic plot that worms its way into the audience’s awareness. The twists and turns of this film were stomach-churning, leaving one in a state of sheer disbelief by the end of it. Overall, Saltburn was a wicked and captivating depiction of privilege, hedonism, and the human tendency to fetishize the material. 

A prominent aspect of this film was its visual richness. Every frame was vibrant, elaborate, and poetic like a classic painting in motion. Fennell paid attention to every minute detail, portraying old money elegance while sneaking into modern times’ mess and laziness. For instance, Fennell described how she intentionally designed Felix’s room to have a giant, presumably priceless flemish tapestry draping across a space littered with cigarette butts and diet coke bottles. Saltburn’s overall aesthetic was sophisticated yet lived in and true to reality. This attention to detail made every scene interesting and nuanced to the point that one could probably go on a rambling analysis for any given frame.

Furthermore, the artistic aspects of this film adequately portray the strong themes of hedonism and decadence. For instance, this was especially orchestrated in the crown jewel of the film — the party scene, in which the family threw a Midsummer Night’s Dream birthday party for Oliver, filling the estate with hundreds of partygoers. Fennell expertly used visual details, symbolism, and lighting techniques to develop a profound ambiance, enveloping the audience in the world of the filthy rich. After all, nothing could portray these themes quite like a lavish event with food, substances, and entertainment to excess. Despite this glamor and facade, there was an underlying darkness tainting the scene. While this was a party of costumes and fun, it was also one of masks, shadows, and mischief only foreshadowing the misfortune that was to follow. 

Saltburn was by no means a blissful revelry. The beauty depicted was ultimately undermined by the insidious events that ensued, along with the visceral shock value of it all.  For instance, an aesthetically arranged scene would end up housing events that left one thoroughly disturbed. This only furthered the movie’s effect, emphasizing the darkness that writhed under the surface of the storyline. On TikTok, this film was characterized by its shocking and disgusting scenes, however, these were vital to the film’s impact as it provided a horrifyingly intimate understanding of the characters. Correspondingly, each character was intensely explored. For instance, this was brilliantly executed through the subtle revealing of Oliver’s true character- he seemed naive and sweet, only to end up embodying the film’s themes of class envy and the sort of desire that drives one mad. These aspects further developed the story’s underlying evil, ultimately leading to a plot twist that left the audience in complete disbelief. 

Overall, Saltburn’s carefully crafted artistry makes it a must-watch for those who can appreciate a good disturbing thriller. However, this film is not for the weak-stomached and should be avoided by anybody sensitive to intense and graphic scenes. 

 

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About the Contributors
Mallory Milner, Reporter
Class of 2024 Hi! I am a senior and this is my third year as a reporter for Westwood Horizon. Outside of press I enjoy hanging out with my friends, reading, and spending time outside.
Hadley Norris, Graphics Editor
Class of 2024 I look forward to designing graphics this year, you can always find me in the caption :)

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