Saltburn director Emerald Fennell on Bafta nominations and infamous bathtub scene

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By Yasmin Rufo & Ian Youngs

BBC News

Saltburn director Emerald Fennell says she thinks the film’s infamous bathtub scene has had such a big reaction because it is “both diabolical and revolting, and unbelievably relatable”.

It was the “first scene I imagined when thinking about the movie,” she said.

The psychological thriller, which stars Barry Keoghan as a student who’s fixated on a wealthy university friend, has caused a stir on social media.

It received five Bafta nominations on Thursday, including best British film.

The dark comedy became an internet sensation after it was released on Amazon Prime in December.

Filled with an abundance of viral scenes, people took to social media to share their stories of sitting down to watch it with their shocked families during the holidays.

According to Deadline, Saltburn-related clips have notched up four billion views on TikTok.

Writer and director Fennell told the BBC’s culture editor Katie Razzall the social media buzz had come about because it’s a “gothic romance”.

“I think it really tunes into this emotional need we have that is quite unfulfilled – the really operatic, heightened emotion; a heightened sense of the erotic and of love and of hate,” she said.

“I just think it’s something that we’ve been missing for a while.”

The bathtub scene has become particularly notorious. Fennell said it was “at the heart of the film”, and was “so powerful because it is so sexy”.

She added: “I think any of us who have been in the grips of absolutely locus desire know that feeling, and so I think that’s why it’s been so effective.”

The scene sees Keoghan’s character Oliver slurp used bathwater containing the sperm of his friend Felix, played by Jacob Elordi.

Keoghan and Elordi have both been nominated for Baftas for their roles, while co-star Rosamund Pike is up for best supporting actress.

Fennell, who won two Baftas for her 2021 film Promising Young Woman, said she was “so delighted” with Saltburn’s nominations, adding that it was “the most exciting thing in the world because we all love the film so much and we had an entirely British crew”.

The film has also been credited with bringing Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s 2001 song Murder on the Dancefloor back into the charts after it features in Keoghan’s eye-popping nude finale.

Saltburn received the same number of Bafta nominations as the top-grossing film of 2023, Barbie, which Fennell described as a “genius piece of film making that is so beautifully crafted”.

Oppenheimer leads the Bafta field with 13 nominations, followed by Poor Things with 11.