Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite (2019) is the current talk on everyone’s lips.
Collecting four Oscars this week, including Best Picture, it was indeed a crucial moment in cinematic history.
Following the life of an unemployed family of four in the heart of Seoul, Parasite’s opening sequence establishes a comedic and relatable storyline, connecting with an audience that is worlds apart as it tracks the family’s search for employment.
One by one, they each find an occupation working for the high-class Park family, emerging out of their basement-level apartment and destitute lives to slowly take over the modern-cut household, just like, well, a parasite.
Joon Ho takes his viewers on a journey, parallel to the Kim family, as they begin to uncover the many mysteries and social hierarchies that one house can hold, evolving into a gripping-tale that constantly keeps you on the edge of your seat. It’s a laugh-out-loud film, right until the moment it’s not.
The brilliance of composer Jaeil Jung (Okja) and cinematographer Hong Kyung-Pyo means that each scene is so fine-tuned that you don’t notice when it’s gears really start changing, until there is blood spattered in the most unexpected of places.
Joon Ho’s relentless commitment to authenticity within all elements of his storytelling makes Parasite‘s richly layered metaphors and thematic theses all the more powerful. Even as the plot builds up and the tone starts to shift from dark comedy into tense thriller, he keeps a masterful hold on the reins, never letting one aspect outweigh the other, always a perfect balance.
From the smooth addition of slow-motion editing to a stellar cast, every decision that Joon Ho makes fits in flawlessly, deeming this film almost impossible to fault and a must-see for all fans of cinema.
To really understand the significance of Parasite, it’s perhaps important to look back at Joon-Ho’s previous work, the unclassifiable films that almost produce a genre of the director’s style himself. His work on the The Host (2006) and Barking Dogs Never Bite (2000), although deemed drama/sci-fi films, expand beyond the realms of Hollywood boundaries of said genres.
They build gore and horror while manipulating all the horror tropes we see so often on our screens, on top of soft, heart-warming stories of family, love, and destiny. Parasite seamlessly combines such themes into a story that each movie-goer can find relatable, despite the language barrier.
Being the first foreign film to win Best Picture, Parasite has burst through the barrier for foreign films to infiltrate Hollywood’s mainstream cinema and style of storytelling. That’s not to say that previous films haven’t contributed to the growing awareness of phenomenal foreign films, take Ingmar Bergman’s Persona (1966), and Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s Mustang (2015), for example.
However, Joon Ho’s work was indeed the final push needed to break apart what a modern-day movie looks like and diversify not only the cast and setting, but the languages and the cultures we see on our screens. As Joon Ho said in his Golden Globes acceptance speech, “Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many amazing films.”
The world of foreign cinema is out there waiting.
Never miss a story. Sign up to Beat’s newsletter and you’ll be served fresh music, arts, food and culture stories three times a week.