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A trip down the Saltburn drain

Isa Peters
Saltburn has been the source of a variety of memes and confusion among Gen Z, and for good reason.


“Don’t drink the bath water” has become a well-known, hard-to-explain-to-your-parents meme, among many Gen-Z fans of the Golden Globe-nominated movie “Saltburn”. A psychological thriller that follows the story of poor Oxford student Oliver Quick (played by Barry Keoghan) who meets wealthy old money Felix Catton (played by Jacob Elordi) and is invited to his estate, Saltburn, for the summer. Over the summer, certain events drastically change Oliver and the Cattons’ relationships, perspectives, and lives. 

Saltburn has been making its rounds across all social media platforms. From Barry Keoghan’s improvised grave scene to “Jacob Elordi’s Bath Water” candle, it is a perfect movie for both teenage fangirls and film fanatics. However, the meaning of Saltburn over the past couple of weeks has gotten lost in the sea of Jacob Elordi and Rosamund Pike fan edits. As Letterboxd user ‘Aki’ states, “It gives a new meaning to ‘eat the rich,’ that’s for sure.”

Saltburn, to put it simply, is about obsession. There’s a common misconception that it is about wealth and class disparity but by the time you get to meet Oliver’s parents, you understand that is not the point. The movie even starts with Oliver stating that he loved Felix but wasn’t in love with him. He was obsessed with the idea of him and wanted the upbeat life he had. So he tries to get closer to him, emotionally and physically.

This may have led to some more awkward intimate moments but it would be a mistake to solely focus on those scenes and talk about how “gross” and “weird” they were. Those were purposeful scenes with the intent to show you how far Oliver is willing to go to get into these people’s minds. Admittedly, the vampire scene is weird and uncomfortable, but it shows Oliver is so committed to this plan he has that he’s willing to do more nasty stuff. Barry Keoghan even said in a GQ interview that Oliver drinking the bathwater is “submitting to his obsession and trying to figure out what it is he’s chasing and almost like a sacrifice in how he lowers himself into the bath, physically. And then when he gets down there, he’s just confused and helpless and sick, you know, to do that.”

If anything the worst scenes were the ones where the second-hand embarrassment spewed out. In the very beginning when Oliver is having breakfast with them for the first time, he asks for eggs and they give him eggs as one would, exactly how he asked. But then, he complains that his eggs are “too runny” and sends them back, apologetically but embarrassing nonetheless. Then at his birthday party when they were singing for him, no one knew his name. There’s an awkward pause in the song where everyone starts giggling to themselves because ‘who is this guy?’ It makes you cringe but also makes you fall into Oliver’s cringe-loser boy facade.

On the other hand of this obsession, Felix has this need to save Oliver from this terrible life he’s been living. He’s not obsessed with him, but he does this to help him since he’s a wealthy privileged kid who is friends with a poor lost kid. He feels almost as if it is his moral obligation to do so. However, when it’s revealed that Oliver has been lying and his life is completely normal, Felix is torn. He’s never had someone so outwardly lie to him and use him in this type of way. This is the biggest plot twist in the movie and it hits you like a truck. You understand how Felix is feeling, without needing the ultra wealth that he has unlike before in the movie. You also start to understand Oliver’s intentions, and what he wants out of this family. Venetia even calls him a moth since he’s so attracted to shiny bright things. 

The most unnerving scene was not the grave scene or bathtub scene, but the red room scene when Farleigh finally questions why Oliver is still around. Oliver has gotten so far into Elspeth, Venetia, and Sir James’s heads that he forgets that Farleigh and he are on the same playing field. Both have their lives being paid for by this insanely wealthy family except Farleigh has a reason to be there, he’s their cousin. But in that scene, everyone tries to act as normal as they can, even though Felix’s dead body is being wheeled right outside the window. It’s just so unnerving how far these people are willing to go to ignore what’s happening right in front of them. With Farleigh questioning Oliver’s legitimacy, ruining the mood, he is kicked out of Saltburn, which perfectly falls into Oliver’s plan. 

Overall, Saltburn is an amazing film for those who are interested in more artsy analytical films. Barry Keoghan’s performance as Oliver is the perfect balance of amazing and weird and he deserves to be in more films. If you take anything from Saltburn, it could be that if you want to be rich, you might have to find a 6’5 British guy in Oxford and kill his whole family over the summer.

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About the Contributor
Isa Peters
Isa is a sophomore, a Perspectives reporter, and on the Black and Gold podcast. She is excited for her first year on the Journalism team! When she’s in the podcast room you can see all the ideas flowing out of her head and simply just enjoying being with friends. She is a passionate artist, music lover (specifically K-pop), and avid movie critic on Letterboxd. When not in the podcast room she’s on the sidelines cheering with the Varsity Dance Team or in her room reading about Jo March’s adventures.

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  • J

    Jensen TrinkoJan 24, 2024 at 1:37 pm

    Really well-written and intriguing!! Made me interested in the movie! (had no interest in seeing the movie before this article)