Winner of four Oscars including Best Picture, the Palme d’Or at Canne Film Festival and the best foreign language film awards at the BAFTA’s and Golden Globes, ‘Parasite’ is a film I’ve been greatly anticipating. Even with all the recognition, I wasn’t expecting to love the film quite as much as I did. As funny as it is thrilling, politically fuelled and sharp as a knife-edge, it truly is a historic film that will live on for a while.
‘Parasite’ tells the story of a poverty-stricken family who decide to infiltrate a wealthy household by posing as unrelated houseworkers. The plot goes far, FAR deeper than that, but I went in only with that information, so you can too. Suffice to say, there’s plenty of twists and turns, and as promised by the BBFC Certification Card, gore and violence!
The stars of the film are fantastic in their characterisation, to a point where you could almost tell the story without reading the subtitles by just following their actions. The cast are a real ensemble where every member plays a vital role in the story being told, but particular praise must go to Song Kang-ho, the father of the poverty-stricken family who seems like the anchor that holds everyone else in place.
Director Bong Joon-ho has made a remarkable film in ‘Parasite’, following earlier success with the films ‘Okja’, ‘Snowpiercer’ and ‘The Host’. By also writing the screenplay (with Han Jin-won) the story he’s telling feels far more personal. He has a clear vision of what he wants to tell and how he wants to tell it, and this means that every camera move is perfect, every joke lands exactly how it should, and every twist and shock is paid off.
The film is rich in political significance, particularly in its depiction of capitalism and the social inequality in South Korea. The sets, the sound design and the cinematography all help tell the story of a clean, bright and perfect wealthy household in comparison to the cramped, dirty streets of the poverty-stricken downtown. In one striking scene, that divide is symbolised by the characters leaving the rich home and running down countless stairs as they literally descend back into the poverty from which they came. It’s a powerful visual metaphor that even my mum picked up on, and that’s something that should really be made clear about this film.
‘Parasite’ is not a film that will alienate the mainstream audiences. While artistic in its approach, the film is surprisingly reminiscent of a western black comedy thriller for such a highly prestigious foreign film. By avoiding the dangerous clichés commonly associated with that ‘genre’, it has become a blockbuster hit worldwide. All of this means that, provided you’re happy to read the subtitles, you’ll be able to enjoy a film that is reminiscent of Hitchcock, Tarantino and other filmmaking greats, while also being refreshed with a new sense of cinematic awe at Bong Joon-ho, who is an astonishing filmmaker at the top of his craft.
Not much more can really be said about ‘Parasite’ without resorting to apparent hyperbole. It’s a remarkable film worthy of every piece of praise thrown its way. After a couple of disappointing years at the Oscars, it finally seems as though they did something right.
Plus, it is also continuing the trend started by ‘Call Me By Your Name‘ of prestigious films that use a peach as a significant plot device, so that’s fun.