From its Palme d’Or winning debut at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2019 to it’s triumph at the 2020 Academy Awards where it took home Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best International Feature Film, Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite has been universally lauded. The South Korean film was also a break-out art house hit, scoring over $263 million at the global box office, showing that language and subtitles are no barrier for great filmmaking.
Bong’s film is one which reveals itself in layers and it’s almost impossible to categorise – it’s at once a black comedy, thriller, horror, family drama and an allegory about class. The best way to appreciate the film is to watch it cold, knowing as little about it as possible before going in.
When a lucky twist of fate allows young Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik) to take on the role of English language tutor to the wealthy Park family, he sees an opportunity to help his parents and sister (Song Kang-ho, Chang Hyae Jin, So-dam Park and Choi Woo-shik) haul themselves out of an impoverished existence and into a better life. The Kim family slowly integrate themselves into the Park’s lives but their subterfuge and lies come at a price.
Bong’s film is layered, unveiling itself in stages, but you never quite know where the plot is going. As you follow the Kim’s rise, you know that something terrible is going to occur, but Director Bong uses cinematic sleight of hand to ensure that you don’t know where the twist is going to happen. It’s a clever move and Bong is able to balance the elements so that the audience is taken along with the characters and their journey. If the film has a flaw, it’s because the last act is so left field that it feels like it could have been taken with another film altogether.
This new black and white version of Parasite was made before the original colour version had its Cannes premiere, but Bong believes this version means viewers will have a stronger sense of contrast between the two families in the film. He’s right – the Kim family’s basement apartment appears like reportage photography from a newspaper, while the Park’s modern and angular home has the high quality sheen that would fit nicely within the pages of a glossy coffee table tome. The black and white contrast echoes the positive and negative of the two families, which shows the differing fortunes of the inhabitants of Seoul.
A well composed piece of filmmaking with an outstanding ensemble performance from the whole cast. The score, production design and cinematography are also excellent. Parasite is an epic piece of filmmaking which tells an intimate family story in a captivating and exciting way.