When I spoke to Emerald Fennell on October 10, 2023, about her wicked black comedy, SALTBURN, the trick was to avoid spoilers. I think we succeeded, with only a tantalizing reference to the suitably absurdist finale that features Barry Keoghan expressing his character, and the film, with a one-man show for the ages.

The story is one of rigid class structure, unconscious cruelty, and a longing for wealth and status that consumes the longee. Keoghan plays Oliver, an outcast scholarship student at Oxford in the 2006. Chance, or is it fate, has him cross paths with the school’s golden boy, Felix, the scion of a massively wealthy family. Where Oliver is awkward and plain, Felix is an Adonis, oozing charm and sex appeal, the center of his college’s cool kids, the ones who throw the parties to which Oliver is never invited. He is, however, invited to spend the summer at Felix’s stately country home, Saltburn, Oliver’s desperate devotion to Felix becomes second only to his fatal attraction to the life of indolent wealth he discovers.

We started with why she chose the classic idiom of a fateful summer at a stately English country home to tell the story before moving on to the juxtaposition of desire and loathing, and finding a location for that stately country home that hadn’t been seen before.

We went on to talk about power plays with Barry Keough, Fennell’s love and respect for fashion victims like the one portrayed by Carey Mulligan as Poor Dear Pamela, and the politics of art.

We finished up with idioms and acknowledging the illusion of spontaneity

The film co-stars Jacob Elordi, Rosamund Pike, Richard E. Grant, Sadie Soverall, Archie Madekewe, Paul Rhys, and Carrie Mulligan as Poor Dear Pamela. Fennell directed from her own script and her previous work includes writing and directing (for which she won and Oscar) PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN, and playing Camilla Parker-Bowles in THE CROWN and Midge in BARBIE.