Warning: This article contains spoilers for the ending of Saltburn.
- Saltburn writer-director Emerald Fennell reveals the process behind creating the movie’s bold ending, which features Oliver dancing naked through the halls of the house he has taken control of.
- Fennell wanted the final scene to feel “post-coital and joyful,” leaving the audience feeling shaken up, complicit, and thrilled.
- The ending wasn’t originally intended to be a dance, as that angle developed when Fennell realized the ending needed to have more “f–k yeah” energy.
Saltburn writer-director Emerald Fennell has explained how she developed the movie’s bold ending. The psychological thriller stars Barry Keoghan as Oliver, a friendless Oxford student who becomes obsessed with his handsome rich classmate Felix (Jacob Elordi) and begins to worm his way into Felix’s family while spending the summer at Saltburn, the family castle. The final sequence of the movie, which mirrors Felix’s original tour of Saltburn, shows Oliver dancing naked through the halls now that he has taken complete control of the house after the entire family has either died or been murdered by his hand.
Slash Film recently sat down for an interview with Emerald Fennell to discuss her movie Saltburn during the early days of its release. She detailed how challenging it was to shoot the movie’s final scene, which is a single take tracking Oliver’s progress through the house. However, she knew she needed it to be presented in a way that felt “post-coital and joyful” so the movie could end on a triumphant note that would have audiences exclaiming “f–k yeah,” which is how it transitioned from a walk to a full-on choreographed dance. Read her full quote below:
It was always in the script, it was a naked walk through the house, and then about halfway through the shoot, because we were so lucky that we were there, it was always going to be the inverse of Felix’s tour, that we see the house and then we see Oliver’s tour of the house later. And it just felt halfway through shooting that it wasn’t going to give up, it was going to just feel like a saunter, didn’t feel like desecrating or an act of territory-taking and all of that kind of stuff. But also, it needed to feel like post-coital and joyful and that if people weren’t all-in on Oliver already, as I am, then it was going to be inarguable that at least you left the film feeling shaken up and complicit and thrilled. Because I think that’s the thing, you are always wanting to push how far people are going to extend their empathy. So it needed to feel like, “F–k yeah.” It needed everyone at the end to be like, “Take them, take them all down.” “Kind Hearts and Coronets,” all of those graves, just boom, boom, boom. Just be like, “Okay, why not? Why not?” And so it needed to be jubilant, and I thought [the song] “Murder on the Dancefloor” was just the perfect amount of camp and self-aware versus an actually joyful and thrilling. And it was incredibly difficult to do because obviously it’s a oner, and we had to light every room completely from outside without seeing any of the kit. We had to set up all of the sound so we could switch to every room because of the lag, without again, seeing any of the kit. And then obviously, the distance with the cameraman, and Barry had to be very, very specific. And Polly Bennett choreographed it, so it was very important that it felt clean and precise, but with the perfect amount of spontaneity and joy that made it feel both like a fantasy sequence and something like somebody might do in a moment of spontaneous evil glee. So it just took a long time to get that. That was the eleventh take. But it’s just a joy when your crew, when you’re all-in on something. And we all really were, including Barry. It’s also difficult because, of course, it’s a closed set so nobody else can see it, it’s only me and [cinematographer] Linus [Sandgren], and the script supervisor, and Polly, the choreographer could actually see it, as well as the skeleton crew following him. So there’s also this fascinating thing of everyone’s doing their job, but nobody can see what they’re doing. Yeah, it was just amazing.
Emerald Fennell Has a Penchant for Creating Bold Endings
Although she has only directed two feature-length movies so far, Fennell has proved her willingness to push the narrative envelope. Her debut feature Promising Young Woman (for which she won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay) had a similarly bold ending. That movie saw Cassie Thomas (Carey Mulligan) seemingly lose in her quest to avenge the sexual assault of her friend when she is killed by a would-be victim. However, her own death turns out to have been part of her plan all along, as she has designed the situation for him to be jailed for her murder.
Promising Young Woman was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Editing, Best Directing, and Best Actress.
Saltburn‘s ending is similarly triumphant and bold, even though it takes the opposite approach tonally from the Promising Young Woman ending. While Cassie’s victory involves her destruction, Oliver’s victory sees him relish the fact that, if he can’t have Felix, he at least now possesses everything Felix once did. It also comes at the end of a movie that contains a variety of shocking and bold moments, pushing the director’s off-kilter cinematic sensibility even further.
It remains to be seen if Fennell follows Promising Young Woman and Saltburn with a movie that makes a similarly bold statement in its final scene. So far, no official upcoming directorial projects have been announced, and she is no longer attached as a writer for the previously announced comic book adaptations Zatanna and Nemesis. However, the writer-director clearly thrives in original storytelling, so that may be a path she continues to follow for her third feature.
Source: Slash Film
- Release Date:
- Emerald Fennell
- Barry Keoghan, Jacob Elordi, Rosamund Pike, Richard E. Grant, Alison Oliver, Archie Madekwe, Carey Mulligan
- 131 Minutes
- Comedy, Thriller
- Emerald Fennell
- Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, MRC, LuckyChap Entertainment, Lie Still
- Amazon MGM Studios