8 Details that Hinted Oliver’s True Intentions in Saltburn

Saltburn, written and directed by Emerald Fennell, is currently trending on social media for its controversial bath scene because, as it was released a few days before Christmas, many youngsters horrified their entire family by playing this on Christmas day. Although the movie is shocking and led by a depraved protagonist, Fennell’s twisted ideas are very ingenious. Many of her ideas are foreshadowed in several scenes, and in this article, we will explain 8 clues that predict the film’s ending. 


1. Oliver’s Rock

We are first introduced to Oliver, a shy Oxford student who is a misfit amongst his rich and self-absorbed peers. After running into Felix, one of the most popular students, he lends him his bicycle, and shortly after they become close friends. Felix invites Oliver to his social gatherings and even tries to convince his snob friends to put their egos aside and accept him. As soon as Felix gets annoyed by Oliver, he starts to avoid him until Oliver approaches him with bawling eyes in search of support as his “drug-addict” father has passed. Felix shows Oliver a family tradition of throwing rocks with the deceased’s name into a river. When they go to a river and throw the rock with the word “Daddy”, it lands on the edge of the river, next to leaves and trash. At first, it seems the rock landed on a disappointing spot because the father had an upsetting life and gave Oliver a horrible upbringing. Little did we know it foreshadowed Oliver’s father never passed, hence the rock not even touching the water. 


2. Oliver’s Conversation with Elspeth

Oliver and Elspeth have a conversation in one of the gardens and Elspeth reveals a bit more of her narcissistic behaviors by harshly judging her friend Pamela and her daughter, Venetia. She said Venetia “gives it away for free. She’s sexually incontinent… Born masochist” and judged her for her bulimia having “fingers for pudding”. At this precise moment, Oliver realizes he’s dealing with a narcissistic mother jealous of her daughter and would rather condemn her for anything instead of helping. Subtly, Oliver finds her weakness for attention and flirts with her saying “can’t have been easy for Venetia, with you being her mother. Because you’re so fucking beautiful”, with these words, Oliver won her trust and got in. No matter how ill-mannered she may be, she’s still driven by attention and can be easily manipulated if she’s given some of it.


A couple of seconds later, Oliver also manipulated her by making her feel smart and seen for her perspicacity, even though she was entirely oblivious to anyone but herself.  Elspeth judges Pamela for being a riot, but sometimes she thinks about how Pamela continues to victimize herself and asks for help when she is the only one who put herself in that position. Then Oliver says “If all of it was true… Her stories, they just seemed a bit inconsistent at times. I thought you noticed it too”. Oliver got into Elspeth’s head putting a thought into it, trying to come across as an accomplice and the only one in Saltburn who sees through her and understands her. However, understanding someone thoroughly and appearing as the sole empath who can see through them becomes easier when you first invest careful and detailed thoughts into their perspective.

Amazon MGM Studios. Lie Still. LuckyChap Entertainment. MRC Film. Released 2023.

        3. Felix Doppelgänger

When everyone is having breakfast, Venetia tells the story about Percy Bysshe Shelley’s doppelgänger and how his housekeeper waved to someone who looked exactly like him, thinking it was him. Not long after, she learned Shelley was in another country and had recently drowned. As soon as Venetia finished her story, Felix’s doppelgänger walked behind her, across the window, wearing the same shirt he was wearing at the table. After Felix dies, the corpse is carried across that same window after Duncan closes the curtains. 

Amazon MGM Studios. Lie Still. LuckyChap Entertainment. MRC Film. Released 2023.

4. Dinner Party with the Henrys

This is the first social gathering Oliver attends with the Catton’s friends. He has a timid look on his face, the kind of facial gesture where he could see to feel less than the rest, an outsider trying to be posh. Yet, when they all sit at the table, Oliver’s reflection can easily be seen. This time, his reflection shows a confident Oliver, almost like a man who knows things are under his control. But the look on his face is the perfect avoidant, looking downwards mask. 

Amazon MGM Studios. Lie Still. LuckyChap Entertainment. MRC Film. Released 2023.

         5. Venetia’s Wine

Right after Sir James orders Duncan to close the curtains, a red, dismal, and violent atmosphere is created, where everyone is trying to process their shock. Venetia is pouring wine in her cup, but grief overtakes her, and she spills it. She doesn’t stop, showing a reference to her future death with blood running out of the tub. 

Amazon MGM Studios. Lie Still. LuckyChap Entertainment. MRC Film. Released 2023.

6. Elspeth Choking

During the same scene, where Venetia spills wine, Elspeth starts coughing as she is choking on her food, giving us the clue, that she will die asphyxiated. This is also hinted on many occasions, for example, the sculpture behind Elspeth and Oliver’s conversation scene is one of Samson Slaying a Philistine in the exact position Oliver was when he ripped out Elspeth’s breathing tube. 


The sculpture of Samson killing a Philistine might have been used as a foreshadowing of how this movie touches on the “Eat the Rich” narrative. In the Biblical Myth, Samson killed a Philistine representing the end of the oppressors of the Israelites, hence Oliver taking over his oppressors. 

Amazon MGM Studios. Lie Still. LuckyChap Entertainment. MRC Film. Released 2023.

7.Bull and Antler references. 

Bulls and antlers are prevalent in Saltburn, telling us Oliver is the representation of the Greek Myth, The Minotaur. The bar, where all the Oxford students went to, was called “The Bull” and the logo is a bull. There is also a painting of a colorful bull behind Oliver, a Giant Minotaur in the middle of the Labyrinth at the Catton’s Estate, and, of course, Oliver’s antlers at his A Midsummer Night’s Dream birthday party. 


Although antlers are thematic of Shakespeare’s play where characters are fantastic creatures who have antlers or small horns, Oliver’s antlers are mainly related to The Minotaur Myth and Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Puck is a mischievous fairy who stole the Changeling Boy from Titania for Oberon. It is also important to note how, at the beginning of the movie, Oliver comes across as the Changeling Boy from Shakespeare’s play. This detail explains Elspeth also represents Tatiana. 


In the play, the Changeling Boy is an Indian boy who was stolen by fairies and adopted by Titania, which is also key to understanding the relationship between Elspeth and Oliver is rooted in Titania (mother-like figure in desperate need of love and affection). Just like Titania, Elspeth adopted Oliver and in a turn of events, years later, she developed a relationship with him. Eventually, she provides love and lavished Oliver with affection, which in Saltburn is presented through her refusal to let him go. Just like Oberon, Sir James got rid of Oliver (Changeling Boy, from a far land who is underprivileged and needs to be rescued) until Elspeth got him back and kept him around until she died.


In the play, the Changeling Boy projects Titania’s and Oberon’s domestic struggle, he is an obstacle in the well-being of their marriage, just like Oliver is the obstacle in the stability of the Catton’s domestic stability. 


It is also important to remember Oliver’s blazer had moth embroidered to foreshadow his true nature, later remarked by Venetia before dying, in a way Catton’s are a destructive fire, but Oliver is the moth attracted to them. 

Amazon MGM Studios. Lie Still. LuckyChap Entertainment. MRC Film. Released 2023.

8.  The Minotaur

As mentioned before, from the Minotaur’s Myth perspective, Oliver is the Minotaur and Elspeth is Theseus. She could’ve won against Oliver ever since that first conversation if she hadn’t gotten distracted and blinded by Oliver’s courtship. However, in the myth, after killing the Minotaur, Theseus has a rise to power similar to Oliver’s. For example, just like Theseus, Oliver tricks Elspeth into giving him Saltburn after her death. So, one could even argue Oliver is a mixture of Theseus’s greed, the Minotaur’s monstrous behavior, and the Changeling Boy’s innocent façade. 

Amazon MGM Studios. Lie Still. LuckyChap Entertainment. MRC Film. Released 2023.

Some people argue this movie is about how, from the beginning, Oliver plotted everything to steal Saltburn and inherit the wealth. As if it was a wealth-driven desire, the movie’s ending has even been criticized as “clumsy” because it doesn’t make sense for Oliver to plot everything for wealth if he barely knew who Felix was. Nevermore, I believe if “it doesn’t make sense because it was a wealth-driven desire” is because that was never the case. Ollie knew Felix was rich, At Oxford University, popular, brand-dressed, posh accent, and behavior; overall it’s easy to tell if someone is well-off. Oliver felt attracted to him because he represented what Ollie deeply wanted: being the center of attention, owning everything and having everything under control, being relevant, and most importantly: being seen. Oliver loved and hated Felix because he was in conflict directed by his obsession, he didn’t know if he wanted to be with Oliver or if he wanted to be him. As the friendship developed and Oliver gained a deeper insight into Felix’s life and background, his obsession grew. He initially wanted a bite of the cake until he realized he could have it all if he played his cards well. Most likely, he initially desired to be with Felix in Saltburn, but that would’ve never been possible. As soon as his fantasy was shed into thousands of pieces after Felix found out Oliver had lied and manipulated him all along, the desire to ever share a life with him disappeared. Oliver’s motivations were not initially about wealth or power, otherwise, why did he spy on Felix in the bathtub? In conclusion, his ill delusion made him accept if he couldn’t have Felix, he would have to become him. 

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