Saltburn opening title sequence

All of the hidden meanings in Saltburn’s opening title sequence

Because the film is so much more than someone licking a bathtub

(There will be spoilers so if you haven’t seen it, watch it… right now.)

Saltburn has taken the world by storm since its release in November 2023.  Whether it be through the perturbing scenes that have invaded our social media or through the hidden meanings about class, race, and the fine line between love and obsession, it is everywhere we look. Despite the film being full of these themes, the opening sequence reveals more than you would expect when you look underneath the surface: from the score to the colours of the title credits, there is so much information left unsaid for the audience to interpret.

In many ways, Emerald Fennell directed the film to be a kind of gothic thriller but not in the usual ways we may expect. The opening sequence doesn’t demonstrate this genre as it sets up a potential queer romance, with the opening line being “I wasn’t in love with him”, which I’m sure we’ve all heard someone say when they’re in denial about love.

The opening scene has been referred to as a “beautiful madness”, which – let’s be honest – is what the film is about in a manner of speaking. So in case you’re curious about the hidden meanings, here’s everything you need to know:

So, what are all of the hidden meanings in Saltburn’s opening title sequence?

The text from Saltburn’s opening title sequence took a month to create and it really shows because every detail has significant meaning. The red of the letters is symbolic of the impending danger Oliver presents to Felix. Plus, red is always thought of as a colour of passion, which links back to Oliver’s love and obsession with Felix and his family. In many cases, there are layers to love: Obsession, hatred, passion, sexuality, danger, and many more, these are all a part of Saltburn.

Paired with these visuals is the score. In this case the stand out song in the title sequence is Zadok the Priest, a notorious British anthem that was initially written for the coronation of George II and has been played at every coronation since. This takes us to the theme of class: the royal ideas of this song speak on how Oliver will never truly be a part of Saltburn. The family are landed gentry and Oliver will never truly be on their level of class unless he was born into it, which he wasn’t. Much like the royal family you cannot be apart of it unless you are born into their family or “the right family”.

Overall, Saltburn – with its intense symbolism, – is a modern masterpiece that delves into so many unspoken topics. Emerald Fennell was aware of her privilege when writing it, which allowed her to explore the outsider view and how as a society we are obsessed with class and social mobility. Every part of the film speaks on a modern issue, you just have to look a bit deeper to realise what they mean.

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