Every Death In Saltburn & How It Fits Into The Bigger Plan

WARNING! This article contains major spoilers for Saltburn!


Summary

  • Oliver’s elaborate lies about his father’s death and troubled home life are key in manipulating Felix and gaining entry into the Saltburn estate.
  • Felix’s discovery of the truth ends their friendship, leading to Oliver’s drastic actions to secure his place at Saltburn, including Felix’s death.
  • Venetia sees through Oliver’s manipulations and confronts him, resulting in her own demise, which leaves Oliver with no obstacles and full control of Saltburn.

Saltburn is a black comedy psychological drama where multiple deaths occur within the narrative, all playing a crucial role in advancing Oliver Quick’s grand scheme. Saltburn is writer-director Emerald Fennell’s second feature film following Promising Young Woman, which boldly delves into themes of desire, class disparity, and obsession. The cast of Saltburn is led by Barry Keoghan in the role of Oliver, a scholarship student at Oxford University, who cryptically recounts the evolution of his friendship with Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi).

Felix takes Oliver under his wing, inviting him to spend the summer with his family at their eponymous estate, Saltburn. As the story unfolds, Oliver’s true nature emerges while he infiltrates the inner workings of the Catton family. There are many shocking deaths in the 2023 movie, each strategically contributing to Oliver’s triumphant ending as he dances through the estate to the song “Murder on the Dancefloor,” in Saltburn.

Saltburn is available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video.


5 Jeff Quick

Oliver’s Father

The initial “death” in the twisted drama Saltburn is not seen on screen, but is significant to the first phase of Oliver’s scheme. After Felix begins to distance himself from Oliver, who has become an overwhelming presence in Felix’s life, Oliver tells him that his father has just passed away. He reveals that his father cracked his head on the pavement due to his alcoholism, which prompts Felix to invite Oliver to spend the summer with him and his family at Saltburn‘s titular location.

However, after picking up a phone call from Oliver’s mother, Felix decides to take Keoghan’s character to see her for his birthday. Once they are at Quick’s residence, Oliver’s lies are revealed, exposing that his father is still alive and that his mother is not a drug addict. Convincing Felix that his father had tragically passed away while portraying a troubled home life motivated Felix to bring Oliver to Saltburn, a crucial step in his plan. More of Oliver’s lies are exposed by his parents, including claims of him being an only child, the top scholar at Oxford, participating in plays, working night and day, and being on the school’s rowing team.

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The first “death” highlights Oliver’s habit of constructing a facade to stand out and appear unique. This is further shown at the beginning of Saltburn, where Oliver is seen wearing glasses and formal attire for classes, which he gets made fun of for by his peers. Oliver then adapts his appearance to fit in with a new group and to get closer to Felix. With Felix believing the false narrative of Oliver’s father’s “death,” Oliver gains entry into Saltburn, using the lie as the first step in his overarching plan.

4 Felix Catton

Oliver’s Friend He Meets At Oxford

Felix’s death arrives after he discovers the truth about Oliver’s home life. After Felix tells Oliver that he should leave the estate after his birthday party that the Cattons are throwing for him, Oliver asks if they could still be friends at school. Felix replies that they cannot, as there is no trust between them anymore. In a final attempt to salvage their friendship, Oliver finds Felix in the maze, confesses that he loves him, and explains that he was just giving him what he wanted with the lie. In response, Felix says, “I don’t know what you are. But I do know, you make my f***ing blood run cold.”

This declaration marks the breaking point for Oliver, realizing he can never again regain Felix’s friendship or love. The realization drives him to take Felix’s life to secure his position at Saltburn. Oliver hands Felix a bottle of champagne, which ends up being poisoned, and he takes a swig. It is obvious that if Oliver can’t have Felix, then no one can. Felix’s death is officially labeled an accidental overdose, which Oliver pins on Farleigh Start, Felix’s cousin. The death of Felix ensures Oliver’s place at Saltburn, as Felix is no longer present to expose him and throw him out of the estate.

3 Venetia Catton

Felix’s Sister

Venetia is in the bathtub and holding Oliver's neck, as their faces are inches apart in Saltburn.

Venetia Catton’s death occurs soon after that of her brother, Felix. When Oliver goes to comfort her and build on their relationship, Venetia no longer comes across as warm or friendly to him. As she soaks in the bathtub, Venetia tells Oliver how she felt sorry for him when he cried during Felix’s funeral, only to realize that he had only known her brother for six months. Venetia declares that Oliver is not part of the Catton family and has no place at Saltburn. She goes as far as to say that he is “stranger f***ing danger,” showing that she has finally figured Oliver out.

She compares him to a moth: quiet, drawn to shiny things, desperate to get in, creating holes, and consuming them from the inside out. Once Oliver realizes that he can no longer manipulate Venetia, she is seen dead in the bathtub in the morning from an apparent suicide. The circumstances surrounding Venetia’s death remain unclear whether Oliver left the blades out for her to kill herself, as she struggles with mental health problems, or if he directly inflicted the fatal wounds. Regardless, her death was necessary to ensure his place at Saltburn, and it also left her parents without an heir to inherit their estate and fortune.

2 Sir James Catton

Felix’s Father

Sir James Catton is sitting at the table, wearing glasses, and has a napkin tucked in his shirt in Saltburn.

Sir James Catton is the only member of the Catton family in whose death Oliver did not directly play a part. Following the loss of his daughter, James becomes convinced that Oliver has developed an unhealthy connection with his wife and asks him to leave, seeking privacy for the family to grieve. Oliver tries to manipulate James, saying that he wants to do what is best for Rosamund Pike’s Elspeth to maintain his place at Saltburn.

In response, James asks Oliver how much it would take for him to leave. The details of Oliver’s departure remain unclear whether he accepted the money or was simply escorted out after refusing to depart. Then, after a considerable time jump, Oliver reads of Sir James Catton’s death in the obituary section of the newspaper. His death allows Oliver to pick up where he left off and begin to pursue a life at Saltburn once again.

1 Lady Elspeth Catton

Felix’s Mother

Rosamund Pike as Elsbeth holding a glass in Saltburn
Rosamund Pike in Saltburn

Oliver encounters Lady Elspeth Catton at a coffee shop, a meeting that appears to be a random encounter but was likely orchestrated by Oliver. Rosamund Pike’s character welcomes Oliver back into her life with the hopes that they can bring each other happiness. Saltburn‘s twist comes as it is revealed that the person Oliver has been talking to throughout the narration of the movie is none other than Elspeth, who appears ill in bed. Oliver reveals to Elspeth how he orchestrated his relationship with Felix, aiming to elevate himself to her social class. He assures her, I promise I will look after this house just as Felix would have. We got there in the end, didn’t we?

As he says this, a flashback reveals that Elspeth signed over her estate and fortune to Oliver upon her death. The confession continues as Oliver admits to masterminding the murders of Elspeth’s family, as he highlights the theme of the movie further about class divide. He clarifies that “accidents” are for the affluent, and people like him must work for success. Oliver then rips out Elspeth’s breathing tube, marking the final kill in his quest to assume control of the Saltburn estate and the Catton fortune. In the movie’s final scene, Oliver dances naked through the estate, claiming it as his territory, concluding the chilling narrative of Saltburn.

Saltburn 2023 Movie Poster

Saltburn

Written and directed by Emerald Fennell, Saltburn is a 2023 comedy-thriller film. When Oxford student Oliver Quick is invited to his friend Felix’s family’s wealthy estate, Saltburn, for a summer vacation, he is drawn into the world of eccentric characters and increasingly chaotic events as his obsession with Felix comes to a head.

Release Date
November 17, 2023

Director
Emerald Fennell

Rating
R