By JILLIAN KRISTINA
Here we are again, descending into the month of all things red and pink and hearts and relationships and “X’s” and “O’s”. February all but swallows us in a barrage of love bombs, quickened vows and rose-colored visions of the future. It’s in this whirlwind of frenzied romance that we drink the sweet elixir of love, of our lovers. We sip at the threshold of their deepest wells in waves of lustful delirium, hoping to absorb their essence… their stories… their sweat…their…
Emerald Fennell’s sultry 2023 psychological satire, SALTBURN, is a saturated love letter to all that is power, all that is luxury, all that is lust, desire and the corruption and toxicity and violence that lie simmering just below the shiny, fragile facade. The outpouring of hedonistic delights and the struggle for the basics needs of human nature – love, acceptance, hearth and home – are dialed to an eleven as Oliver “Ollie” Quick (Barry Keoghan), a less-affluent outcast attending the University of Oxford, focuses his sights on the charismatic and irresistible Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi).
“I wasn’t in love with him. I know everyone thought I was, but I wasn’t. I loved him, of course. It was impossible not to love Felix, and that was part of the problem…”
We all know the sting of unrequited love. We’ve all dipped our toes into the desperate waters of obsession in one form or another, but it’s not all of us who make the strategic decision to acquire those objects of desire, no matter the cost. No matter the body count, real or fabricated.
“We’re all about to lose our minds.”
Ollie does befriend Felix, and an intimate friendship ensues. Felix is curious about his new outsider friend, engaging him in personal conversation, keeping him close – keeping him attached – whether they’re alone at a bar or in the middle of a chaotic party. It’s almost as though Felix casts a protective net over Ollie. So, when Ollie shows up at his door with the tragic news of his father’s death and his mother’s debilitating addictions, Felix lends a compassionate ear and heart and does the only thing he knows how to do: Invite his new friend to join his eccentric family – his flock – at their country house, Saltburn, for the summer holiday.
Ollie may seem like a helpless sheep, but slowly, steadily, Ollie sheds his so-expertly curated wool and reveals his true, carefully hidden essence…
“I’m cold-blooded. We’re all cold-blooded, haven’t you noticed?”
Sometimes, we shift to meet our circumstances. Other times, we shift to meet ourselves.
To meet ourselves, our forgotten selves, our primal selves. The selves that remember those hedonistic years, the times and rituals and revelry that live rent-free in our blood and bones. Those faint reverberations that suddenly shudder to life through dreams, visions and random thoughts that seemingly invade our reality, leaving us mystified as to their origins. Lives lived thousands upon thousands of years before our first conscious steps on this ancient soil continue to inform us in their own ways. Some of us are more tuned into these forgotten practices, these celebrated rites and rituals. While some remember the gaiety, the freedom, the ecstatic rapture experienced when truly surrendering to the rhythmic pulse of nature rather than the mere encapsulation of flesh and matter, others take to the bloodier aspects of these observances – the metallic taste and muddled texture of that most raw of life forces, absorbing it, drinking it in…
“I could just eat you… It’s lucky for you I’m a vampire.”
Bloodied hands, bloodied lips. Bloodied dress, bloodied kiss.
The ancient Romans were also acutely attuned to these natural, grittier rhythms of blood, soil and bone, having no reservations when it came to streaking through the streets, striking each other with blood-soaked strips of sacrificed animal hides in the name of fertility and copulation and procreation. Lupercalia, or dies Februatus, was a celebration held from February 13 through 15, revolving around themes of purging and purification and clearing the decrepit debris to make room for an abundant, thriving new crop. It’s speculated that the name of the festival was influenced by the Latin word “lupus” (“wolf”), The apex predator, pursuing its prey – its object of desire. The target of its most feral hunger – its fatal affection.
“I wasn’t in love with him. I know everyone thought I was. I loved him. By God, I loved him. But sometimes, I hated him. Yeah, I hated him. I hated all of you. And you made it so easy. Spoiled dogs, sleeping belly up. No natural predators. Well, almost none.”
Love and hate. Life and death. Breath and blood. One cannot – does not – exist without the other. Acceptance and rejection. Elation and devastation. Two sides of the same coin. Ollie experiences the full spectrum of these paradoxes as he prowls his way through Saltburn. Venetia (Alison Oliver), Felix’s sister, is his appetizer in a lurid and animalistic devouring of the maiden in a sheer gown on a garden bench, a gorgeous homage to Francis Ford Coppolla’s BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA, as we can see the ghost of Lucy in Venetia, lustfully ravaged by Dracula in his own lupine state. Farleigh (Archie Madekwe), a cousin living at the manor, who happens to very much resent Ollie’s presence and the lavish resources and attention being bestowed upon him, becomes his main course after Farleigh divulges the details of Ollie and Venetia’s feast of blood and flesh to Felix. Ollie makes quick work of Farleigh through domination and dismissal – another act of domination. Another layer of wool shed. Another fang revealed.
As Ollie’s predatory nature becomes increasingly harder to camouflage, no one comes as close to seeing his cunning deception as Felix. In an act of sincere concern and care, Felix makes a naively devastating mistake. He peers behind the thick crimson curtain that Ollie has been meticulously pulling across all of their eyes and reveals the wretched, sickening truth that this wolf in sheep’s clothing has been burying deeper…, and deeper… and deeper…, like the graves that will follow. Because Ollie’s truth cannot – will not – see the light of day, and it’s during the final course of his elaborately strategized feast that he will have his radiant, decadent, chiseled cake and eat it, too.
The New Moon in Aquarius on February 9 brings with it the possibility to shapeshift out of our current reality into one we may not have ever given ourselves the space in which to dream. Uranus, the ruler of Aquarius, is the planet of disruption, of revolution, of sudden change and piercing, refreshing innovation. Aquarius is often referred to as the most unique, eccentric sign of the zodiac, crafting lives and futures as free-wheeling and freedom-loving as they are. They are also humanitarians, those who value community over the individual but also have keen insight into what the individual is all about. Recently, Pluto shifted into Aquarius, marking a massive new era spanning the next 20 years (with a brief retrograde back into Capricorn in September), and this New Moon is a powerful conduit through which this energy is pouring. So, take this time to reflect on what you want and the systems that need to be dismantled to make space for that vision. If you’re taking a page from Ollie, having the last dance after completely leveling the elitist aristocracy, maybe substitute the physical sacrifices with ways of being that are no longer sustainable, ways of living that are ready to be offered up at your personal altar of enough is enough or indulgences that have been way over indulged, so that you’re free and unencumbered to live your best life on your own terms. There’s also a lot of volatile energy surrounding next week’s holiday – energy that Ollie really excels at embodying – think obsessive stalker type. So maybe don’t take a page from Ollie’s playbook on that one…
However you celebrate this New Moon and the month of love, remember safety, remember consent, and remember to love yourself first. Always, always, always.
If you’re one to pull cards, here’s a short Tarot spread to toss during this potent and revolutionary portal!
- Who am I as I engage with this New Moon energy?
- If I could be anything, do anything, live anything, what do I first need to let go of to make space for it?
- What would I need to accept and embrace about myself to level up to this new space of possibility?
- An energy I can engage with. Just for me. All for me.
- Something within me that I can cultivate for both myself and the greater good.