Saltburn director, writer, and producer Emerald Fennell says there’s a reason the sex scenes in her new movie don’t involve any nudity.
Starring Barry Keoghan and Jacob Elordi, Saltburn is a psychological thriller that follows Oliver (Keoghan), a student who is invited to his eccentric classmate Felix’s (Elordi) estate for an exciting summer.
In a Q&A at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, Fennell explained her sex scene strategy.
Emerald Fennell on Saltburn Sex Scenes
“This film is, in many ways, about sex. But I think the thing that’s wonderful is that in almost all of the sex scenes whether they’re solitary or not, we never really see below the collarbone. But they’re so filthy,” Fennell said with a laugh.
“It’s the thing that we know is happening, what we feel is happening. We don’t need to see it. But I felt like the nudity is about grief or triumph. It’s a sort of different animal instinct.”
Fennell found that not showing nudity in the actual sex scenes made them feel more real than if there had been nudity.
“I think it felt like if we used a copious amount of nudity in the sex scenes it would have been kind of uninteresting and relentless, and you know, it’s not real, too,” she said. “It’s not real with those scenes a lot of the time, which puts you in a bit of an uncomfortable position. But you know, when it’s just someone on their own, and it’s just their face, it feels very, very real.”
At it’s core, Saltburn is a story of desire. Fennell, who is MovieMaker‘s fall cover star, told us all about that in our latest cover story.
She also explained the element of desire at SBIFF.
“We’re always, all of us, kind of walking this line between horror and comedy and the absurd. There’s so much about about this film that is kind of chilling but also absurd, and it’s, as we say, a film about desire. I think that in our most private moments, desire is not very beautiful,” she said.
“I mean, it might be very sexy, but it’s not picturesque, you know? It’s quite carnal, and it is carnal. And so I think it felt like the whole movie had to look and smell like that.”
Saltburn arrives in theaters on Nov. 17.
Main Image: Emerald Fennell, courtesy of SBIFF.