It’s hard to describe exactly what Bong Joon-ho has given us with Parasite and you can say the same about his last two features, The Host (2006) and Snowpiercer (2013). His films defy containment and instead operate across several genres simultaneously, flitting from horror to comedy to thriller to social commentary. Now this signature approach has earned him global recognition and fair few oscars to boot. So let’s talk about the Best Picture of 2019…
If there is a commonality across Bong Joon-ho’s filmography it’s the theme of disparity of class which provides the foundations for his stories. In Parasite we have The Kims, an impoverished and unemployed family living in a semi-basement house, who serve as our four main characters. Despite their destitution they appear, on the surface, content, or at least accepting of their situation. They laugh and they love and they somehow keep scraping by. Their counterparts are the Parks, an affluent young family sitting at the top of the social hierarchy. We watch as these two vastly contrasting worlds collide and what comes next is a chain of events that will make you laugh, gasp, cry and ultimately, leave you reeling. For now, that’s all you’re getting because the less you know going into this, the better.
Bong Joon-ho also picked up the Best Director Oscar beating Sam Mendes who was thought to be a shoe in for the award for his work on 1917. In fairness both films are utterly delightful to watch. In Parasite the blend of cinematogprahy and performances builds a visual that compels every bit of your attention yet you never feel fatigued, despite the lengthy run-time. The structure follows a rigid 3-act arch and as the film makes these transitions the entire flavour of the experience shifts, a refreshing change to the usual, painfully predictable, blockbuster thriller. It balances levity with sobering reality effortlessly and encourages you to look inward and ask yourself some tough questions. It’s masterfully done and every scene is composed with a scrutiny and attention to detail of which the typical cinematic output is devoid.
Any story, script or character however, is only as good as those who bring it to life and, thankfully, Heidi Levitt cultivated a masterclass of a cast. The performances across the board are first-rate and it’s a crying shame it didn’t pick up any acting awards. Everyone delivered convincing and grounded characters with believability in their flaws and strengths. It’s impossible to note anyone over and above the rest. A wonderful display of new and familiar South Korean talent, all of whom have some good years ahead after the film’s success. I’m looking forward to seeing their careers progress as they deserve to do.
Ruling – It’s difficult to talk too much about Parasite with spoiling anything so I won’t belabour the point. Go see this film. Whatever your taste or usual date-night genre of choice, forget that and watch Parasite. Who knows, maybe you’ll find a love for South Korean cinema but failing that you’ll find a truly original, expertly executed piece of storytelling.