The BFI’s London Film Festival is just around the corner, kicking off on October 4 with Emerald Fennell’s Saltburn, a new film about a young man who befriends an aristocrat and spends the summer at his family’s country estate.
If it sounds charming, hang tight. Saltburn is more Talented Mr Ripley than Brideshead Revisited, as award-winning writer Emerald Fennell presents a terrifying thriller: Barry Keoghan’s working-class Oliver becomes obsessed with his wealthy friend Felix (Jacob Elordi), meanwhile Felix’s friends and family can be complicated and cruel.
The trailer, which landed on Wednesday, gives a glimpse of the stomach-churning drama: an uneasy score plays behind scenes of the two friends having fun in Oxford. “You think you’ll go home?” asks Felix. “Honestly, home doesn’t mean the same for me as it does for you, Felix,” replies Oliver. And so Felix then invites him to Saltburn, his family home, for a summer.
“I see why Felix likes you so much,” says a woman’s smooth voice over scenes of Oliver arriving at the astonishing country home for the first time, and diving into its extravagant dinners, parties, kissing, drinking and endless hedonism.
But there’s something horribly sinister lurking here: in the trailer, Oliver stares through a window as Felix strips off in his room with a young woman; he punches a mirror, and cries into a pillow. The camera cuts between shots of a maze, a spiral staircase, a close-up of wet, sweaty skin, and closes on the silhouette of Felix, smoking by a window.
“Lots of people get lost in Saltburn,” says the butler, seeming to have caught Oliver up to something in the library.
Both directed and written by Fennell, who won an Oscar in 2021 for writing Promising Young Woman, the film stars Rosamund Pike as Felix’s mother Elsbeth, and Richard E. Grant as his father, Sir James. Carey Mulligan, Alison Oliver (Conversations With Friends) and Archie Madekwe (Grand Turismo) also feature.
Although the story is fictional, Fennell could well be drawing on some of her own experiences. The 37-year-old actor and writer (who played Camilla Parker-Bowles in The Crown) was educated at the prestigious Wiltshire public school Marlborough College, and then at Oxford’s Greyfriars.
She has starred in a number of films, including Anna Karenina (2012), The Danish Girl (2015), and Vita & Virginia (2019) and worked as a writer on the British series Drifters (2016) and Killing Eve (2019).
Margot Robbie’s production company, LuckyChap Entertainment, has produced the film (working alongside MGM and American film studio company MRC). It also produced Fennell’s highly acclaimed feature-length directorial debut, Promising Young Woman.
See more first-look images of Saltburn below
Saltburn will be released on November 24