Bong Joon-ho’s four time Oscar winning satirical comedy, “Parasite” is a modern masterpiece that mirrors something similar to a Shakespearean tragedy.
The story follows the unemployed and desperately poor Kim family that undertake the opportunity to leach off of the wealthy Park household. Through deceit and scamming, the Kim family wiggle themselves into a comfortable lifestyle by employing themselves in the Park home.
It’s the classic tale of a lower class uprising like we’ve never seen before. Set in South Korea the film portrays the class discrimination between the ultra-rich and those they employ to manage their lives. The Kim family also figuratively live beneath the Park family, the Kim’s home is a basement apartment while the Park’s mansion is perched on a hill.
A metaphorical “line” is mentioned throughout the movie and it tempers with the hypothetical consequences of what should happen if it is ever “crossed”. However the employer and employee tightrope is tethered from beneath all those involved.
In contrast to most modern movies, “Parasite” uses a minimal score throughout the film. It’s forgetful song is lost while the tale plays out, the timing of the storytelling keeping to a steady beat all by itself. It is common for films to use music and dramatic scores to help develop a storyline or to create tension. Its notable absence in “Parasite” proves that it is not a necessity but a crutch.
Director and creator Bong Joon-ho’s use of basic costumes, makeup, props and shots allows for the characters to breathe and develop. This strips the viewer back to the most fundamental asset of a film, the story. The story is cunning, gritty and best viewed with very little prior understanding of what the film is actually about.
A bit of advice for the first time foreign language movie viewer is to allow yourself time when adjusting to subtitles. More familiar European languages like French or Spanish are somewhat easier on the ear due to holidays abroad, but Korean can take a minute to adapt to if you’ve never listened to it before.
Within 20 minutes of viewing, reading the inch tall subtitles will become second nature to you and you will have found the balance between studying the script and keeping an eye on the action.
Parasite swept a total of 31 awards since it was released at Cannes 2019 claiming various titles including Best Director, Best Actors and Best Original Screenplay. Bong Joon-ho’s work is described as being “genre fluid”, this is appropriate as the theme and emotions are constantly changing, putting the viewer through dramatic turmoil of the mental state. To put it bluntly it’s a roller coaster.
Parasite is the first foreign language film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture and has strengthened the possibility for more foreign language films to be recognised by the awards board. In his multiple acceptance speeches, Joon-ho spoke of his surprise to be recognised amongst big budget movie makers he admired, Martin Scorsese included. He also granted us the comical line, in broken English, “I will drink til next morning”. Drink well Joon-ho, Parasite deserves it.
Image Credit: CJ Entertainment