Saltburn: Unraveling the Layers of this Cinematic Masterpiece

Saltburn: Unraveling the Layers of this Cinematic Masterpiece

At the end of December, the thriller/comedy movie, “Saltburn” was released on Amazon Prime. Much controversy emerged regarding this movie as viewers were shocked by the graphic sexual content that centered some of the scenes. With many having negative feelings about “Saltburn” because of this, I couldn’t help but think that the upset viewers were unable to look past these scenes and recognize the spectacular intricacy that “Saltburn” holds. With beautiful cinematography, symbolism through costume and colors, and parallels with Greek mythology, I would not feel ashamed to suggest that in my personal opinion, because of the detail ingrained within this film, “Saltburn” was the movie of the year.

“Saltburn” follows a college student at Oxford University named Oliver whose drug addict parents left him in a state of poverty. A sympathetic, wealthy student named Felix ends up befriending Oliver, and after hearing of his troubles, invites Oliver to stay with his family at his mansion, called Saltburn, over summer break. Oliver ends up indulging in Felix’s lifestyle of careless luxury as the family takes him under their wing. A series of horrific events end up occurring on the Saltburn property, and viewers experience a rollercoaster of emotions after a major plot twist.
Including footage of the beautiful Northamptonshire, England, “Saltburn” is truly a visual masterpiece. Not only are the landscape shots appealing to the eye, but the costumes used in the movie have wowed the public. The wealthy characters are dressed in high-end, fabulous wardrobes, and some of these outfits have become part of mainstream trends. Since the movie takes place in 2006, a lot of the style inspiration comes from old Y2K trends, causing them to resurface. Not only are these costumes glamorous, but also symbolic. The characters who live at Saltburn are often dressed in bright colors, representing their high status, while characters like Oliver are shown wearing more muted, bland colors, seeming to display his outsider persona. Along with the use of clothing in “Saltburn”, the movie regularly features the color red, foreshadowing the danger and distress experienced by the characters. These visual cues add complexity to the movie and give the audience more to think about.
Following that, “Saltburn” utilizes parallels between Greek mythology in order to further the meaning of this movie. Specifically, there are several aspects of “Saltburn” that parallel the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. The myth is a story of a half-man, half-bull creature (the Minotaur) who was imprisoned in an underground maze called the Labyrinth. Every couple of years, several people are thrown into the Labyrinth as a sacrifice to the Minotaur. The Minotaur in this tale is used to symbolize a person’s deepest fears and desires, chasing them through their walk of life. In the film, the Saltburn property has a large maze, reflecting the Labyrinth maze in this myth. Furthermore, the maze has a literal statue of the Minotaur in the center of it. This maze can represent how the family is trapped in a life of frivolous spending, while also foreshadowing how desires lead to destruction (a theme displayed in the Minotaur as well as “Saltburn”). Not only this, but in “Saltburn”, there is a costume party in which a character seems to be wearing horns, looking like the horns of the Minotaur. While wearing the horns, the character ends up going into the maze. Within this scene, there are direct thematic parallels between the actions of this character (which I can not disclose because they are spoilers) and events in the myth that demonstrate how materialism takes over the mind.
“Saltburn” is a complex and elaborate piece of work that evokes emotion while being able to seem silly and lighthearted. While watching, I laughed, cried, and cringed. I was truly taken aback by this movie while watching, and even after I watched it, I am still in awe of the intricacy of it. It featured themes of desire and obsession and how these things take over and corrupt the mind. While this film is not for everyone, I highly recommend it and suggest that you buckle in, and let “Saltburn” take you for a ride.

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