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Saturday 20 January 2024

A Cinematic Odyssey: Saltburn's Grief Scene and a Wuthering Heights connection

If you haven't seen it then STOP, go and watch it! 

Diving into the heart-wrenching yet beautifully crafted world of Saltburn, with a special focus on the soul-stirring grief scene that unfolds at the graveside. 

Saltburn, a cinematic masterpiece, takes us on an incredibly boundary pushing and profound journey through life, love, and, inevitably, loss. 

As the characters gather around the graveside, the scene is bathed in a soft, melancholic light, and the weight of loss hangs heavily in the air. The filmmakers' attention to detail is palpable, capturing the essence of grief in its rawest form. But once the family leave Oliver, it becomes no typical movie grief scene – it's a moment that challenges the boundaries of expression.

Barry Keoghan's portrayal of Oliver in this scene is nothing short of masterful. In the aftermath of Felix's funeral, Oliver grapples with the heaviness of the situation. The weight of loss becomes overwhelming, and in a moment of profound vulnerability, Oliver removes his shirt and collapses onto the freshly filled grave unbuttoning his trousers to relieve himself of the pent-up sexual tension he's been holding on to.

The scene takes an unexpected turn as Oliver, consumed by grief and obsession, engages in an unsettling ritual to bid farewell to his beloved Felix. Instead of conventional tributes, Oliver fully undresses and lies face down on the freshly-laid gravesoil. This disturbing yet intriguing act serves as an unconventional expression of love, loss, and extreme hopelessness. But is it so 'out there'? I don't think so. I think people who have seen grief and lived in it know how dark, how bizarre, how weird your thoughts and actions can get (or feel). To see this on screen, in a popular medium with great actors was incredible. Grief is UNIQUE.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Barry Keoghan sheds light on the scene's evolution. Originally meant to stop at touching the dirt, Keoghan and writer/director Emerald Fennell decided to push the boundaries further. Keoghan explains, "It wasn’t about f@%king the grave, it was more about I don’t know what to do with this obsession; it’s making me confused and making me unhuman in a way. It was a total discovery for him, I think. And it was sad. It was very, very sad."

Emerald Fennell describes “It is troubling, it’s about grief, it is about the horror of grief and the horror of love. It comes directly from the Gothic tradition because there’s a scene in Wuthering Heights, one of my favourite books of all time, where Heathcliff digs down to get to Cathy’s coffin and the subtext is very much to do a similar thing. So what we have in the film is not completely outlandish given the genre. So much of Oliver’s desire cannot be sated, what he really wants is not possible, and even in the end it’s not possible.”

While Saltburn's grief scene transcends traditional movie boundaries, it invites audiences to explore the multifaceted nature of human emotions which is something we have previously kept closeted away when it comes to grief. Another movie that came to our screens in a similar timing was Good Grief and for me that did less for grieving in the modern day than Saltburn who showed is grief in its raw form - the only form there is.

BUT I will say, any movie or popular medium that deals with grief, loss, death, funerals and bereavement is a winner in. my book because it is being TALKED about and that is all we can ask for. Grief is unique for us all.

As a side note, has anyone read Alix Strauss Joy of Funerals? More on this to come. Rereading it again but it gave me Saltburn grief vibes!

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