The buzz surrounding Bong Joon-ho’s 2019 film Parasite cannot be understated. The film has just gone on to utterly clean up at the Academy Awards including winning the top prize of Best Picture – the first non-English language film to do so in the 92 years of the awards ceremony. Truly an impressive feat regardless of the films native language and country of origin.
Admittedly, going into Parasite I had little to no knowledge of what the film was exactly about. I had only watched two other films by Bong Joon-ho, Snowpiercer and The Host, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed. I know Joon-ho is acclaimed for nearly all of his films, so my expectations were that this too must be at the very least as good as Snowpiercer and The Host. So I rented the film on Google Play, decided to turn down the lights, and got stuck into the film. What awaited me was truly beyond anything I could possibly have imagined.
Parasite is at it’s core a film about a poor family hoodwinking a gullible rich family into giving them jobs. But it is so much more than that. The film utterly flips the script on the standard conventions of cinema. There is no real antagonist in the film, there are no real good guys or bad guys. Just people trying to navigate life from different ends of the social spectrum.
The poverty stricken Kim family are each in their own way intelligent and capable workers, but due to their class status and financial situation find themselves stuck in a life of squalor. The wealthy Park family serves as a perfect mirror reflection of the Kims; they appear to be simple minded, oblivious to the world outside of their hilltop mansion, and simply incapable of basic labor or work. That said, the Park family is not painted as unkind or cruel, instead they are caring and respectful of their workers. This shift from the expected “rich people equals bad” and “poor people are the heroes fighting for their slice of the pie” is what makes Parasite so fascinating.
It’s easy to consider the Kim family as the parasites preying off the naivete and stupidity of the Park family, but the film poses the question: Who is the real parasite in society? Is it the rich who use the poor to sustain their lifestyles, or is it the poor who live off the crumbs given by the rich? This creates a truly interesting dynamic that reaches an unforgettable crescendo in the films magnificent, shocking climax.
This is a film that is best when watched with as little knowledge going in as possible. To spoil the twists and turns of the film would gravely effect the viewing experience of first time viewers. The film is just that good. It truly defies conventional story telling and delivers one of the best film experiences in recent memory. You will leave Parasite in deep thought and possibly even reconsidering your own preconceptions on class and the systems of wealth and poverty that have come to comprise most societies across the globe.
There is a reason this film is the first non-English language movie to win Best Picture at the Oscars. Parasite is Bong Joon-ho’s magnum opus, and is a must watch for all fans of great cinema.