Saltburn director explains the surprising reason for ‘fluids’ and nudity in new film

Jacob Elordi and Barry Keoghan at the premiere of Saltburn in Los Angeles.

Saltburn director Emerald Fennell has explained her thought process behind including so much nudity and ‘fluid’ in her new film, which stars Barry Keoghan and Jacob Elordi.

Since its arrival in theatres, the psychological thriller has left viewers aghast with several particularly graphic moments.

In one scene, which has already become infamous online – even among those who haven’t yet seen the film – Keoghan’s character is seen lapping up the discarded semen of his friend Felix (Elordi) from the drain of a bathtub after watching him masturbate.

Emerald Fennell, director of Saltburn, on the red carpet for the film's premiere at London Film Festival.
Saltburn director Emerald Fennell has explained why there is so much nudity and “fluid” in her new film. (Getty)

The shocking moment proved even more so when Elordi said in an interview that he was “very proud” to have his co-star Keoghan “guzzling it like that.”

The bathtub scene is just one of many that had viewers’ jaws on the floor throughout its two-hour and seven-minute runtime.

Now, Fennell has explained why she used fluids, nudity, and sex to bring the shock factor that she has now become known for. 

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Speaking with Sky News, the director explained that, although the thriller is set in the early 2000s, it was written shortly after the height of the Covid pandemic, when lockdown restrictions left many people isolated and unable to see friends and family, let alone touch them.

“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,” she said.

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In another interview with Variety, Fennell noted that the scenes were designed to “get under your skin.”

Jacob Elordi as Felix in the teaser trailer for Emerald Fennell's 'Saltburn'
Euphoria’s Jacob Elordi stars in Emerald Fennell’s upcoming thriller Saltburn. (MGM)

She shared: “I want to make stuff that you go and sit in a dark room full of strangers and you don’t know what you’re going to feel and you don’t know where you’re going to be probed.”

Saltburn tells the story of Oliver Quick, a new student at Oxford University who is struggling to find his place in the prestigious institution.

He finds himself drawn to charming, upper-class Felix Catton, who invites him to his family’s estate, named Saltburn, for the summer to meet his eccentric family.

The film also stars Rosamund Pike, Richard E. Grant, and Carey Mulligan.

Speaking to Pink News ahead of the film’s release, Fennell said that the thriller was “absolutely” a queer film, hinting at what might be in store for Oliver and Felix’s relationship.

@pinknews

“Everyone wants everyone” 👀 Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman, The Crown) spilled the tea on Saltburn’s anticipated queer relationships at the #LFF opening night premiere. The thriller stars #Euphoria star #JacobElordi opposite #BarryKeoghan and RosamundPike, and will be released on November 17. #lgbtq #bfi #msm #queer #movietok

♬ original sound – PinkNews 🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍⚧️

“This is a film entirely about desire, and that desire takes every conceivable manifestation, and it’s so important,” she said. 

“Yeah, of course, [queerness is] part of the very fabric of the film… This is a world where everyone wants everyone.”

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She continued: “I think there are some characters in this that are almost so hyper-hetero that they feel comfortable toeing the line, and then there are characters who are absolutely fluid in every conceivable way.

“I think it’s so interesting. When you write characters, to me, they come out fully formed,” she said. “This is a world where everyone wants everyone.”

Saltburn is out in select cinemas on 17 November. It will be released in wider cinemas on 24 November.

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