Saltburn: Stars say film isn’t afraid to push sex scene boundaries

Barry Keoghan and Jacob Elordi smiling, with arms around each other on a black background. Barry is wearing black with jacob wearing a yellow shirt and black striped blazer.
Image caption,Barry and Jacob play friends Felix and Oliver in the film

If you’ve been to the cinema to watch Saltburn, chances are it will have left a mark on your mind.

The psychological thriller starring Barry Keoghan, Jacob Elordi, Rosamund Pike and Alison Oliver has sparked a reaction for its sex scenes and male nudity.

“Shocking”, “disturbing” and “graphic” are some of the words being used.

“It was this big, massive gesture, and I think it definitely leaves an impact,” Alison tells BBC Newsbeat.

Set in a huge country house, Saltburn explores themes including sex, power and class.

The film follows Jacob Elordi’s character Felix, a university student from an extremely rich family, who takes friend Oliver, played by Barry Keoghan, home for the summer – a plot which wouldn’t normally cause a big response.

But a scene with Alison’s character Venetia, where she has sex on her period, has captured attention.

Alison says the scene “makes sense” in the film because of the evolution of Oliver, “and the vampire theme that was running across the film”.

Alison and Archie, standing next to each other with a red background. Alison is smiling, wearing a brown outfit, while Archie, who is taller, is wearing a white and black patterned jumper under a brown leather jacket.
Image caption,Saltburn stars Alison and Archie are full of praise for the writer and director Emerald Fennell

Saltburn was written and directed by English actor and filmmaker Emerald Fennell, who won the Oscar for best original screenplay for her film Promising Young Woman.

And Alison is full of praise for how she pushed conventional boundaries in the film.

“I think Emerald is just incredible in that way, she isn’t afraid to push things and go there. And that’s something I admire in her so much,” she says.

The depiction of male nudity is also in the spotlight, particularly in one bathtub scene where Barry Keoghan’s character is shown to be spying on his friend Felix, before climbing into the bath to drink the water.

“I think the brilliant thing about this film is you can understand, even through the shock, where all [of the characters] are coming from,” Archie Madekwe, who plays jealous American cousin Farleigh, tells Newsbeat.

The film ends with Oliver in a full-frontal nudity scene, which Archie feels has been done with a symbolic meaning in mind.

“The gesture in the full-frontalness is complete freedom in that house, that at one point had its claws around him and he couldn’t be himself,” he says.

“And there’s no greater image of that, than someone being so comfortable in nakedness, walking around the house.”

Like Alison, he feels there’s a “beautiful thing” in Emerald’s writing.

“The more you dissect it, the more you can find reasons for the madness in each of the characters,” Archie says.

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