Saltburn filmmaker Emerald Fennell on why nudity and sex scenes were influenced by the pandemic | Ents & Arts News

Nov 19, 2023 | Uncategorized

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Filmmaker Emerald Fennell says there is a “direct line” between the amount of nudity and sex in her new film and the timing of writing it after the COVID pandemic.

Saltburn – the name of the sprawling country home at the heart of the story – explores class, power and sex, prodding at our tendencies to want what we can’t have, and is something of a modern take on Brideshead Revisited.

“There is a direct line between the fluids that exist in this film and the fact we were not allowed to even breathe the same air for nearly two years, that the things of the body were not allowed to be touched,” Fennell tells Sky News.

Emerald Fennell's Saltburn explores class, power and sex and is something of a modern take on Brideshead Revisited. Pic: MGM/Amazon Studios
Image:
Saltburn explores class, power and sex. Pic: MGM/Amazon Studios

The story follows student Oliver, played by The Banshees Of Inisherin star Barry Keoghan (pictured above), who is struggling to ​find his place at Oxford University and finds himself drawn into the world of the charming and aristocratic Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi).

It is Fennell’s second feature film and follows her Oscar-winning debut Promising Young Woman, which told the story of a woman avenging the rape of her best friend.

Fennell says the kind of films she likes to make “tend to be in the sticky place where you’ve got sympathy for the devil”.

While the film satirises the upper classes, Fennell admits there was an element of processing her own upbringing.

“Everything that one ends up writing does end up being kind of exercise in interrogation… I want to kind of find those uneasy points in myself and other people. I want to poke bruises.”

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Barry Keoghan stars in Emerald Fennell's Saltburn, which explores class, power and sex and is something of a modern take on Brideshead Revisited. Pic: MGM/Amazon Studios
Image:
Pic: MGM/Amazon Studios

The film’s darkness is something we’ve come to expect the filmmaker following Promising Young Woman, which won her the Oscar in 2021 for best original screenplay.

“It’s not something I can be cool about,” she laughs. “It’s the greatest thing that ever happened to me.”

As well as working behind the camera, Fennell also played a young Camilla in The Crown, and has written three books, the second series of Killing Eve, and a West End musical.

Her transition into filmmaking has seen her excel, but she says she finds “a sadomasochism inherent” in the process.

“You know, you’re both dominating, but you’re also kind of at the behest of the audience too,” she says. “But I would never want to make something somebody didn’t see as exposing.”

Fennell is looking to elicit a visceral reaction from cinema-goers – who might just find themselves squirming in their seats.

Saltburn is out now in UK and Irish cinemas.

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