Saltburn’s strange parallel with the refugee crisis

Saltburn is a modern film, of its time in its portrayal of homo-eroticism and a quirky, ‘A24 horror’ vibe.

Here’s why I think Saltburn, deliberately or not – may also be finding relevance by resonating with people’s fear of refugees and immigration:

The first thing to understand is that Saltburn is not an ‘eat the rich’ fantasy as it may seem on the surface. The audience is led to empathise with Oliver but can never get too comfortable with Barry Keoghan’s suspicious eyes. They find themselves increasingly in Felix’s shoes.

The most human characters in Saltburn are the Catton family – their cruel and selfish flaws are forgivable, just a product of privileged naivety. In fact the director and writer is Emerald Fennel who herself is an Oxford educated daughter of the British aristocracy.

Saltburn is the UK – past its prime and a place where we indulge in life thanks to the riches of our ancestors.

Oliver is a victim who our younger generation has welcomed to live with us for virtuous reasons, but not without some ambiguity; perhaps the power dynamic makes us feel special.

He gets into Saltburn through exaggerating his struggles, exploiting this rich family’s naivety and charity. He hides his middle-class reality because it would render him unworthy. This sentiment is one of the main arguments wielded against refugees – that we should not expect total honesty when every incentive is given to ‘do an Oliver’.

The person who can see straight through him is Farleigh, the other ‘outsider’ and the only black character. Farleigh was already there, is a similar age and in a similar situation of dependency on the Catton’s charity, but is much more practiced at blending in and playing his status.

In the final act we see all anti-immigration fears affirmed – through his wits alone Oliver has outlived and inherited the estate.






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