Have a suggestion for Wildcat Wednesdays? Scan or click this QR code to share it with us!

Saltburn and shock value entertainment

Poster of Saltburn

Saltburn is director Emerald Fennel’s 2023 psychological thriller starring Jacob Elordi and Barry Keoghan, but the star-studded cast is not the reason Saltburn has been making headlines. It is because of a few scenes taking up a very small amount of the overall runtime these scenes depict sexual acts. While the graphic nature of the scenes has gotten people talking it has also brought up the question of if there is real a purpose for shock value entertainment?

Saltburn follows Oliver Quick an outcasted young man attending oxford. He quickly becomes enamored with his extremely wealthy and popular classmate Felix Catton. Oliver and Felix become fast friends and Felix invites Oliver to stay with him and his family over the summer. Once arriving it becomes clear that Felix’s family are more than they seem on the surface. From there a fascinating story about romance, betrayal, and the disconnect from reality the 1% live in is told.

It quickly becomes clear that Oliver’s interest in Felix is more than platonic and Barry Keoghan portrays Oliver’s obsessive want for Felix’s love and attention in an extremely convincing and deeply unsettling way. This obsession over Felix is what all the most shocking scenes steam from. Oliver is shown performing multiple sexual acts based around Felix without him knowing. These moments add an interesting layer to the plot and evokes imagery similar to 1980s highly sexualized slasher films only more blatantly explicit. Without these uncomfortable moments Saltburn is still a good and extremely interesting movie but the inclusion of them has left people disturbed and more importantly left people talking.

I enjoyed Saltburn, the plot felt fun and new, and the acting blew me away. While I definitely have my complaints, they aren’t necessarily around the sexual nature of the film. There were a few moments in the film that really moved me emotionally and left me thrilled to be watching. One such scene was the climax of the film set in the center of an expansive hedge maze. I loved the way it was shot and the inclusion of a statue of a minotaur was expertly subtle foreshadowing towards the twist later in the film, as minotaurs are often a symbol of human greed and evil. Another thing I really enjoyed about the film was its air of mystery but unfortunately in the final few minutes all the potential guesswork was crushed under the thumb of explanation. A huge pet peeve of mine is when directors or editors don’t trust that their audience is smart enough to understand the more subtle parts of the story and they force feed us unnecessary explanation and Saltburn did this exactly.

While the discussion about the graphic sex scenes is unfortunately taking away from the captivating storytelling and beautiful cinematography it has captivated the media and undeniably gotten millions of people to see the film. So, at the end of the day the even though the bathtub scene is unpleasant at best, at least is has giving a fantastic female director the recognition she greatly deserves.

More to Discover