By Sophie Fennelly
As I headed to the cinema, I was a little apprehensive about ‘Parasite’, assuming that it wouldn’t live up to its hype. The effects of its Oscar win were clear to see as, despite being in its third week of running, the theatre was packed, with few seats remaining.
The film opens, introducing the Kim family, and for me there was an overwhelming sense of normality in its comedy: it was in no way forced and felt like the natural comedy we experience in everyday life. This continued as the film developed, and I remember thinking to myself that I did not see how the ‘bloody violence’ that the BBFC certificate had warned of at the start. That was until the twist. In a matter of seconds Bong Joon-ho (the director) managed to take the lighthearted tension we had been feeling up until that point and turn it up to a level that made me grab the edge of my seat and, at some points, cover my mouth with my hand in shock.
It is quite easy to see what made this such a strong contender for Best Picture: the camera work subtly foreshadows many key moments only a second before it happens which adds to the feeling of anticipation, and there is a strong sense of irony in the metaphor of the rock which brings wealth from the start of the film recurring in the second half of the film.
The characters are well rounded and easy to relate to, even though Korean culture is so different to ours. For me, this is probably the reason that this is the first foreign-language film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, as Bong manages to make us forget that there is both a language, and cultural barrier between us and these characters.
The film also addresses urban poverty and class strife what pervades Seoul, despite South Korea being associated with some of the most modern technology such as Samsung and Hyundai. The Kim family represent the so-called ‘dirt spoon class’ who live in semi-basements in areas just like the Kims do. The issues that they face, such a being infested with cockroaches, and smelling unpleasant are not any different from the real-life issues that some in Seoul face. Bong addresses this inequality by contrasting the Park family with the Kim family, but more importantly, demonstrates a sense of ignorance from ‘the golden spoon class’. A key visual representative of this difference is the running motif of stairs throughout the film. In fact, Bong once referred to ‘Parasite’ as a ‘movie of stairs’, stating that they represent social mobility, or a lack thereof. By detailing the Kim family’s struggles we come to root for them, despite the ‘immorality’ or ‘illegality’ of their actions.
I would highly recommend Parasite and would give it 5 stars.
Image credit: https://oscar.go.com/news-amp/winners/parasite-wins-4-oscars-and-makes-oscar-history