Saltburn: The infatuating obsession with Felix Catton


This article contains spoilers for the movie Saltburn.

The latest movie fascination features Jacob Elordi and Barry Keoghan in nothing less than “Saltburn”, released in November 2023. It is a somewhat confusing movie, rawly exposing us to the downward spiral of obsession. Obsession by definition is “the control of one’s thoughts by a continuous, powerful idea or feeling, or the idea or feeling itself”. But in this movie, we see a dangerous obsession becoming a reality. 

And so it begins…

The character Oliver Quick, played by Barry Keoghan, portrays obsession in a way many haven’t seen before. It’s disturbing, quite frankly put. Throughout the movie, we get little pieces of foreshadowing of the concept of obsession taking over from Oliver. We notice it first when he approaches Jacob Elordi, who plays the character Felix Catton. An ‘accidental’ bump-in when Felix’s bicycle unexpectedly broke down, and Oliver offered his bike to him – an overly nice act of kindness to perform for a stranger, never mind a college student.

From there on forward their friendship takes off, and they become the closest of friends. Felix would eventually invite Oliver to his mansion over the summer break where they spend their weeks getting drunk. Graphic scenes come up with Oliver spiralling down his obsessive path of wanting to be with -or become- Felix. Oliver observes Felix pleasuring himself in his bathtub and proceeds to drink his bathwater after he’s finished, the somewhat metaphorical insanity that Oliver’s egoistic values feed off of. 

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An obsessive midsummer dream

Throughout their stay in Saltburn, in some matter of sadistic means, he tortures Felix and his friendship. One of the ways that Oliver gained Felix’s trust is by being emotionally vulnerable and having told him that his father had passed away. Felix being the most well-meaning friend drives Oliver over to his mother’s house as a birthday surprise – in an attempt to help Oliver fix his relationship with his mother whom he had not talked to ever since the death of his father.

As they enter the house, Felix discovers that Oliver’s father is well and alive. Felix becomes out of sorts, confused, and feels used; he gets up to leave. This points to the insanity of Oliver, and how he would lie and manipulate to gain Felix’s trust. Felix is adamant about never talking to Oliver again. He tries to not be in the same room as him, actively avoiding any contact.

This complete breach of trust leaves their friendship in complete shambles of what it once was. Oliver’s ego takes a complete hit, but his pre-planned birthday party takes place. Felix and his hook-up of the night run off to the mansion’s maze in their gigantic garden. Oliver watches this happen and follows them and, noticing Felix’s state of being under the influence, passes him a bottle; A bottle that’s been poisoned by Oliver and shortly upon drinking kills Felix. Because if Oliver can’t have Felix no one can. 

Life after death

With Felix’s passing, Oliver takes on Felix’s persona. His personality had gradually imitated that of Felix’s during the movie but now we see the complete switch. Oliver starts by acquiring Felix’s smell by using the same aftershave. Felix’s sister took notice of this shift and, logically, Oliver’s reaction was to kill her, but make it look like a suicide. During Felix’s funeral, a rather graphic scene shows Oliver inserting his privates into Felix’s grave. A last ounce of Felix, before he essentially becomes him. After successfully getting away with two disturbing murders, he takes to his mother, the vulnerable and last kill.

This however was the slowest and perhaps most rational kill: having gained the mother’s trust by being there for her through her children’s death – he was written into the will to gain access to all of the property. On her deathbed, Oliver confesses to how he’s gotten to this point. Confessions to the killing of her two kids, and how he’s gotten so close to the family to be written into the will. He essentially got everything that was supposedly for Felix. A sick and twisted obsession and living into Felix. An infatuation that made a serial killer and an obsession that become a reality. 

Final thoughts

Saltburn has shown us how a twisted obsession can slowly yet intensely derail itself into  insanity. From manipulation to sadism, Saltburn has it all. Cyclically, from the very end to the very beginning of the movie, Oliver continues to say that he wasn’t actively in love with Felix. Would you think that to be true? After being exposed to the infatuation and how he’d come into the persona of Felix, isn’t that the purest form of love? To idealize someone so much you want to become them?

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