Saltburn’s “Murder On The Dancefloor” Scene Explained: What The Song & Oliver’s Dance Really Mean

Summary

  • Oliver’s nudity in the dance scene symbolizes him shedding the facade he put on for the Catton family in order to inherit Saltburn.
  • The lyrics of “Murder on the Dancefloor” closely relate to Oliver’s actions in Saltburn when interpreted literally. The song’s dark meaning aligns with Oliver’s pursuit of power and the destruction of the Catton family.
  • The song and dancing element were not originally planned but added to the scene later. The final scene serves as the perfect ending because it showcases Oliver’s joyful culmination of his twisted plan.


There are multiple layers of meaning behind Oliver dancing to “Murder on the Dancefloor” in the final scene of Saltburn that may not be evident on the surface. Written and directed by Emerald Fennell, Saltburn is about a lower-class Oxford student named Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan), who is invited by his rich friend Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi) to spend the summer at his family’s lavish Saltburn estate. As the summer progresses, Oliver becomes more and more obsessed with Felix while growing closer to the Catton family.

After successfully inheriting the Saltburn estate from Felix’s mother, Elspeth, upon her passing, Oliver giddily dances around the Saltburn mansion to Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s 2001 pop hit, “Murder on the Dancefloor” in the one-shot final scene of Saltburn. The scene became a viral sensation on TikTok, causing the 23-year-old song to start charting again after Saltburn‘s release. However, the meaning behind both the song choice and Oliver’s dance attire (or lack thereof) goes way beyond its pop culture relevance.

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Oliver’s “Murder On The Dancefloor” Scene Highlights Him Victoriously Removing His Masks After Inheriting Saltburn

Oliver’s nudity in the dance scene is symbolic

A shirtless Oliver (Barry Keoghan) looking at the Catton family's death stones at the end of Saltburn.

One of the reasons the closing scene of Saltburn is so significant is that Oliver is fully naked while dancing around Saltburn, which connects back to his master plan to take down the Cattons and inherit Saltburn. Though there were clues to Oliver’s deceptions in Saltburn, it was never made clear why he lied about certain aspects of his life. However, Saltburn‘s ending reveals that Oliver had been meticulously planning to infiltrate the Catton family and acquire their fortune the whole time.

In order to accomplish his goal, Oliver had to go to great lengths to conceal his true intentions from the Cattons. This involved putting on a different act for each Catton family member to either gain their trust or pose a threat to them. By the end of Saltburn, Oliver had put so much time and effort into deceiving the Cattons by disguising his true self and pretending to be somebody else. Now that they’re all dead and he has the keys to the castle, he can finally take off the many masks he’d been wearing to keep them fooled.

Oliver’s nudity in the final scene symbolizes his ultimate liberation from the self-imposed facade he’d adopted for the Cattons. As Saltburn choreographer, Polly Bennett, put it, by dancing naked around Saltburn, Oliver is officially “shed[ding] the veneers” and showing the viewer “who he actually is” (via Vulture). In order to capture this sense of joyous freedom, Bennett wanted the dance routine, which was partially inspired by Fred Astaire’s iconic moves and Joaquin Phoenix’s stair-dance scene in Joker, to feel “like a groove, like you do when you’ve got music playing and you’re carefree.

However, Oliver’s dance in Saltburn is as much about marking his newfound territory as it is about stripping away the disguise he wore to acquire this territory. “He is waking from a bed that isn’t his, in a house that isn’t his,” Bennett explains, “and moving naked through corridors that aren’t his.” In this way, Oliver’s theatrical display is “a dance of extreme ownership,” a gleeful celebration of his successful acquisition of Saltburn. He prances through the halls of Saltburn in the nude because he can, because the whole place belongs to him now.

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What Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s “Murder On The Dancefloor” Song Lyrics Mean (& How They Relate To Saltburn)

The lyrics closely apply to Oliver’s actions

Another reason Oliver’s dance scene is significant is because of the song choice. Despite its upbeat tempo and catchy beat, as the title would suggest, the lyrics to “Murder on the Dancefloor” are actually quite dark. As illustrated by the music video, the song is about a ruthless participant in a dance competition using cutthroat tactics to take their opponents out of the running. As such, a figurative “murder on the dancefloor” is essentially taking place, as the contestant is wiping out the competition.

While the song may not be about someone committing actual murder on the dancefloor, when interpreted literally, the lyrics to “Murder on the Dancefloor” apply exceptionally well to Oliver’s actions in Saltburn beyond the fact that he’s a dancing murderer. For instance, in the first verse, Ellis-Bextor sings, “I know/About your kind/And so/I’ll have to play.” The ending reveals Oliver already knew all about Felix’s “kind,” i.e. the excessively wealthy. In order to get what he wanted, Oliver knew he’d have to “play” the game by getting in with Felix’s family.

In the second pre-chorus, Ellis-Bextor sings, “if you think you’re getting away/I will prove you wrong/I’ll blow you all away.” This speaks directly to Oliver’s persistence in pursuing Felix and carrying out the demise of the Catton family to secure the estate for himself. “Blow you away” can either mean to impress or kill someone, both of which pertain to Oliver’s charade. The thematic relevance of the lyrics to “Murder on the Dancefloor” to the events of Saltburn make the song the perfect soundtrack to Oliver’s grand finale moment.

Oliver Originally Wasn’t Going To Have A Dance Scene In Saltburn’s Ending

It wasn’t supposed to be the final scene of Saltburn, either

Oliver (Barry Keoghan) looking at the dead Catton family member's rocks in the final scene of Saltburn.

Oliver dancing to “Murder on the Dancefloor” is such a monumental moment in Saltburn, it’s hard to believe that it almost didn’t happen at all. Bennett revealed that the scene wasn’t originally written to be a dancing sequence in the script for Saltburn.Initially, in the stage direction…it was just Oliver walking through the house,” she explained. However, Fennell later decided to spice up the scene and add a dance routine to “Murder on the Dancefloor,” and the rest was history.

Even after it became a dancing sequence, though, it still wasn’t intended to be the final scene of the movie. The scene that was originally supposed to close out Saltburn got cut during editing, which was for the best. As Bennett notes, having the dancing scene at the very end serves to “solve Oliver’s frame of mind.” Oliver’s thrill at finally achieving his deranged, long-term goal is perfectly exemplified through his enthusiastic, carefree, and slightly clumsy dancing and the all-too-applicable lyrics to “Murder on the Dancefloor,” making it the best way to cap off Saltburn.

Source: Vulture

Saltburn

Release Date
November 17, 2023

Director
Emerald Fennell