And the winner is... Parasite
South Korea makes Oscar history
Running time 2hr 12 min
THE first South Korean film to win the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. The first non-English film to win the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. The first South Korean film to be recognised by the Academy, and the first international film to win Best Picture.
Parasite was one of the most critically lauded releases of 2019, and now that it has finally been released in the UK, I want to urge everyone to see this groundbreaking and near-perfect piece of cinema. Although many might be put off by the prospect of having to listen to Korean dialogue and to read,subtitles for the two-hour runtime, I would point them to director Bong Joon-ho’s acceptance speech when he won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film: “Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.”
Parasite focuses on two economically disparate families; the unemployed Kims, who all live in a cramped semi-basement, and the wealthy Parks, who live in a stunning modern abode, high above the squalor of the urban setting. After the son, Kim Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik), begins to pose as a university student to tutor the Parks’ daughter after his friend recommends him, the Kims hatch a plan to infiltrate the Park household by all pretending to be skilled yet unrelated workers in order to hide their true identities.
The first half of the film plays out as a smart and genuinely hilarious comedy, as the Kims execute their plan using clever and mischievous tactics to outwit the ignorant and trusting Parks. However, at the end of this first act, the film takes a darker tone as another spanner is thrown into the works, and the tone continues to pervade throughout until Parasite’s tragic finale.
It is a genreless film, blending elements of comedy, drama, thriller and even some aspects of horror to create a thought-provoking, entertaining and cerebral piece of social commentary. Bong Joon-ho’s control over his filmmaking craft in Parasite is almost peerless. He’s made a culturally and temporally specific story with universal appeal in the best cinematic way possible.
The film’s editing, cinematography and production design all serve its narrative and themes, and the film is deliciously, thematically rich. It demands multiple viewings to fully realise the detailed and engrossing world Bong has created. Parasite presents a wonderfully neutral view of different classes within modern society, identifying no single group as worse than the other, ultimately condemning society as a whole for the tragic events that occur.
The cast is simply superb. Bong’s regular leading man Song Kang-ho leads the ensemble with ease, but it’s really the cast as a whole that must be commended. All the actors have pitch-perfect dramatic and comedic sensibilities, which, when married to Bong’s script, results in a theatrical treat to watch on screen.
I’m hopeful that Parasite will pave the way for international films in the future. Its success both critically and commercially in the US is proving there is a market for films made out of the west to be successful everywhere. Parasite is already leading the way for South Korean cinema, with many films from the country being the most intriguing and exciting of the past two decades, so will it be able to convince us, narrow-minded and hooked to the IV of Hollywood blockbusters, that there is more rewarding cinema out there? Perhaps not, but nevertheless, Parasite is without a doubt the best film of 2019. It’s a whirlwind of laughs, gasps and tears that’ll leave you pondering for days.