Emerald Fennell on ‘Saltburn,’ class and Barry Keoghan: Fall Movie Preview

by Michael Nguyen
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Emerald Fennell, known for her provocative directorial debut, “Promising Young Woman,” has now ventured into crafting a cinematic take on the classic English gothic story with her latest film, “Saltburn,” which hits theaters on November 24. Fennell’s fascination with English literature classics like “Brideshead Revisited,” “The Go-Between,” “Remains of the Day,” and “Rebecca” inspired her to explore this well-established genre.

In “Saltburn,” Fennell brings her unique storytelling style to one of Britain’s longest-standing genres. The film takes a darker and more unsettling turn compared to the genteel settings of Downton Abbey, aligning with Fennell’s penchant for incendiary narratives.

Margot Robbie, a collaborator from Fennell’s previous project, is a producer for “Saltburn.” The film stars Barry Keoghan as Oliver Quick, an Oxford University freshman on a scholarship who becomes entangled with an aristocratic classmate named Felix Catton (played by Jacob Elordi). Their complex relationship draws parallels to “The Talented Mr. Ripley.”

Set in the summer of 2006, “Saltburn” unfolds as Oliver visits Felix’s family estate. The story delves into themes of class, reminiscent of Fennell’s exploration of gender dynamics in “Promising Young Woman.” Notably, Rosamund Pike’s portrayal of Felix’s mother stands out, and Keoghan’s performance has generated early buzz, thanks to compelling scenes that add depth to the narrative.

Fennell’s admiration for Barry Keoghan’s talent, particularly his role in “Killing of a Sacred Deer,” motivated her to cast him in the film. “Saltburn” emerges as a significant opportunity for Fennell following the success of “Promising Young Woman,” which garnered widespread acclaim, including an Oscar win for her script.

Reflecting on the unexpected success of “Promising Young Woman” during the pandemic, Fennell acknowledges the surreal nature of the experience. Her focus has since shifted to “Saltburn,” a film that, while sharing certain time and place elements with her personal experiences at Oxford, does not directly mirror her youth in high society. Fennell relates more to the outsider status of Oliver rather than the insider position of Felix.

She emphasizes that “Saltburn” explores the undercurrents of tension within family, friendships, and social circles, where unspoken codes of money, class, and privilege play a defining role. The film’s themes of power, ambition, and the desire to belong are universal, transcending specific settings.

Fennell describes her approach to filmmaking as creating “poison popcorn movies,” blending entertainment with thought-provoking content. She seeks to engage audiences and spark discussions long after the credits roll. Her current cinematic obsession is Ari Aster’s “Beau Is Afraid,” which she views as a masterpiece of the past decade.

As for “Saltburn,” Fennell characterizes it as a love story at its core, exploring the profound longing and ambition of Oliver, a young man on a quest for self-discovery. The film, she believes, captures the intensity of desire and the yearning to define oneself—a universal experience that resonates deeply with audiences.

In conclusion, Emerald Fennell’s “Saltburn” promises to be a thought-provoking and immersive cinematic experience, blending elements of classic English literature with her distinctive storytelling style, all while delving into themes of class, power, and personal longing.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Saltburn

What is “Saltburn” about?

“Saltburn” is a film directed and written by Emerald Fennell, exploring class dynamics and personal desires in an English gothic setting.

Who are the key actors in the movie?

The film stars Barry Keoghan as Oliver Quick and Jacob Elordi as Felix Catton, with notable performances by Rosamund Pike and Margot Robbie.

How does “Saltburn” relate to Emerald Fennell’s previous work?

Emerald Fennell, known for “Promising Young Woman,” continues her tradition of thought-provoking cinema by delving into themes of class and ambition in “Saltburn.”

What makes “Saltburn” unique?

“Saltburn” combines the classic English gothic genre with Fennell’s incendiary storytelling style, promising a darkly alluring cinematic experience.

When is “Saltburn” set to be released?

“Saltburn” is scheduled to open in theaters on November 24.

What can viewers expect from “Saltburn”?

Viewers can anticipate a film that explores the complexities of power, desire, and the yearning for self-discovery, all within the backdrop of a stately English estate.

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