In creating a movie, one must plan and imagine the sensations and visuals that will flow forth and carry the audience forward. In “Saltburn,” the forward momentum moves in a slow, roiling wave washing over the watcher, making them want to be bored with the pace but fascinated with the detail and the curves in the film.
Maybe “Saltburn” is trying to be too many things, a statement about the impossibility of shifting class distinctions in England, a psychological thriller, a story about obsession and betrayal. It succeeds in many of these goals. What it fails to be is a comedy. The black comedy attempts sink into the flavors and textures of the film, creating some scenes that are truly difficult to watch.
Academy Award winning filmmaker Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”) creates his tale of privilege and desire about a student struggling to find his place at Oxford University. The student, Oliver Quick (played by Barry Keoghan) finds himself drawn into the world of the charming and aristocratic Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi), who invites him to Saltburn, his eccentric family’s sprawling estate, for a summer never to be forgotten.
It sucks you in at a strange pace, every moment carefully crafted, including threads of themes weaving through the film. For example, Shakespeare is mentioned at the beginning and cast in various forms throughout the film until the end, which includes a giant party complete with Midsummer Night’s Dream costuming and behaviors.
The color palette is dark – maroon and mahogany – with every light meaningful and every dark corner tied to its opposite hue. The film is almost a vampire movie, but without the supernatural. Every character is pulling life energy from every other one.
“Not for the faint of mind,” my friend, Sophia, responded when I commented “it is not for the faint of heart.”
This movie uses sexual energy and the transference of that energy as a character in itself. If you are not ready for some intense and disturbing sensual behaviors, don’t go.
“Saltburn” certainly leaves a taste of darkness with the audience as it ends, not a movie soon left in the past. It will linger in your dreams and riddle your brain with random wonderings for a while.
The film society is a tax-exempt non-profit organization and has operated the Fountain Theatre since 1989. For more about the film society, upcoming programs and films, visit its website, mesillavalleyfilm.org. Fountain Theatre is located at 2469 Calle de Guadalupe in Mesilla.