Class, power and sex: director Emerald Fennell talks about the twisted tale of Saltburn.

Emerald Fennell believes we’ve all got some darkness buried inside. As the Oscar-winner’s theory goes, most humans have sadomasochistic tendencies to some degree. 

The acclaimed actor, writer and director’s latest endeavour is a twisted tale of obsession, desire and privilege, of slippery identities and unconsummated desire, obsession teetering on the verge of madness. 

Ms Fennell said: “To think about the nature of our voyeurism, the nature of the relationship we have to the things that we want, whether it’s people or a lifestyle. We’re at a really weird point in time where we’re just constantly looking and wanting, and that wanting so quickly becomes self-loathing. And that loathing is so easily transferred onto the person.

READ MORE: Nearly half of Oxford homes suffering poor energy ratings

“We’ve all had that experience of looking on Instagram and being like, ‘Oh my god, this person is so gorgeous. 

"Oh, I hope something bad happens to them.’ It’s kind of a circle we’re in at the moment. The sadomasochistic relationship we have with class in this country, with country houses, with the royal family – with all of it. We just can’t get enough, but we know it’s not good for us.”

Oliver Quick, played by Barry Keoghan, is, on the face of it, an awkward 18-year-old from a working-class Merseyside family who wins a scholarship to Oxford.

There, he finds himself adrift amongst and enraptured by a cohort of groomed, wealthy kids, born for the Oxford life he appears incongruous in.

At Oxford, his gaze fixates especially on the effortlessly aristocratic Felix Catton, played by Jacob Elordi. Felix, in turn, takes a liking to Oliver and invites him to spend the summer at his family estate, the eponymous Saltburn.

What follows has the elements you might expect: sun-soaked hedonism, perplexing dinner table etiquette, careless wealth and interminable sexual suspense. And many that you might not. It is dark, wince-inducing and sometimes difficult to watch. The hazy summer unfolds and they all slowly lose their minds.

The line-up also includes Rosamund Pike, Richard E Grant, Alison Oliver and Carey Mulligan.

READ MORE: 83-year-old stalwart killed by van remembered with new memorial

While Oliver becomes infatuated with the inhabitants of Saltburn, their money and their mores, The Banshees of Inisherin’s Keoghan posits the fascination is mutual. 

On her penchant for dark humour, Fennell says: “I don’t really know how else to talk about things. I think everything’s funny. Everything, no matter how horrifying, is funny. This is about desire to the point of total madness – if you want to talk about things that are personal and complicated, I think it can only be approached with humour."

Saltburn comes to cinemas this Friday (November 17).