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The Campus Lantern

The Campus Lantern

Harry Fifield ’24 reviews Saltburn

Saltburn delivers a story even more acrid than the title indicates. The film follows Oliver Twist (Barry Keaguan), a freshman student at Oxford University, attempting to solidify himself in the popular crowd of old-money elites, the only detractor being his infallible oddity. Oliver soon becomes involved with one of these esteemed characters, Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi), and after lending him his bike, strikes up a friendship. Felix’s friends are weary of Oliver; however, after Oliver opens up to Felix about his painful past, Felix invites him to stay at his regal estate in Saltburn for the summer. 

Over break, Oliver, a seemingly sheepish character at Oxford reveals himself to be something far more sinister who will do anything possible to remain in this life so foreign from his own. It is eventually revealed that Oliver orchestrated his chance encounter with Felix over a busted bicycle, and further than that, planned every step to eventually gain control of the Catton estate, including orchestrating the deaths of each family member. 

English filmmaker Emerald Fennel delivers her second feature film coming off the uproarious success of her debut Oscar winner, Promising Young Women. She preserves her knack for directing stellar performances, the main cast as any indication. Barry Keaughen seems to be training for his Joker reprisal and channeling the same energy needed for that role. Jacob Elordi is as alluring as ever, perpetually cast as a figure of deital unattainability. Rosamund Pike delivers an astonishing performance, as good as her role in Gone Girl. Her satirization of the aimless elite is so convincing as to be horrifying. Richard E. Grant adds a necessary comedic presence. His immaturity charms and gives off a sense of absolute ignorant confusion. Similar to his role in The Lesson, his dramatic chops falter slightly, this time when the final dinner scene veers slightly too far into comic satirization.

A touchstone theme of the film is juxtaposing youthful rave culture with classic British formality. The soundtrack is a prime example, each track is so overwhelming as to be practically olfactory, meshing modern-day cuts with orchestral symphonies, but the technical aspects of the movie excel. The cinematography is outstanding, each scene intricately crafted and edited. Multiple shots are filmed upside down or with extreme Dutch angles, all contributing to the ludicracy of the Saltburn experience. 

By the end of the film, however, you are left with nothing but to ponder what Fennel could possibly be saying. A truer film would look at the relationships between characters.

What causes certain people to gravitate towards others? Power and wealth are only as appealing as their  dearth. A character such as Oliver could have exposed the relationships between the have and have-nots in a far more profound way. 

His character could have illustrated the role desperation for power has in blinding true morality. Is the true moral that sociopaths or money is bad? Such a technically intricate film shields a story that says nothing. In fact, the most prominent message that the film conveys is that it is by the hands of the lesser that the rich are held down.

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Harry Fifield '24
Harry Fifield '24, Staff Writer
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    julienFeb 9, 2024 at 7:26 am

    nice summary