Parasite: A New Classic

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A quick note before you start reading: I’ve kept this article free of any major spoilers, but I’d still definitely recommend going into the film completely blind before coming back to read this page. It won’t go anywhere, and I can assure you that Parasite is worth your time and money. 

 I’m sure you’ve heard of Parasite by now, after all it did just make Oscar history by becoming the first international film to win Best Picture (more on that later), but for the uninitiated, Parasite is an incredibly well-made genre-shifting South-Korean film from director Bong Joon-ho, and in my opinion, a new classic.  

Although Parasite does most of everything it tries to do exceptionally, the real thing that makes it stand out is its ability to dramatically change in tone—and even genre—at a moment’s notice. Starting off as a comedy before becoming a drama, then a thriller, then a straight up horror, and then all four at once, I can’t think of a film that has made me feel such a wide range of emotions to such incredible depth. At times it’s light and endearing, at times it’s heavy and sad. Sometimes it’s oddly funny, and sometimes it’s much scarier than it has any right to be.  

This plays into the unpredictability of the film as well. Bong Joon-ho doesn’t pull any punches in his storytelling, and he’s more than happy to play with the viewers expectations (in a meaningful way, mind you). As soon as the big reveal in the middle of the film reared its ugly head I was on the edge of my seat for the rest of the runtime, and I was not disappointed in the slightest. 

Despite all the volatility and drama, as well as various more expressive hints, Parasite remains crushingly realistic. Managing to get that balance right is very difficult, but it’s also absolutely crucial for this kind of film, and the ways realism is maintained in Parasite are really cool. Random facts about our characters that were mentioned in passing an hour ago always become relevant again, and there’s also a sense of the outside world continuing irrespective of the main plot.  

I feel that in the end Parasite is closest to a tragedy than anything else, but defining it as such would be  ignoring the very thing that makes the film so special. Although it seems to remain hopeful to the end, it breathes an air of pessimism throughout; not only in detailing the huge class differences, but also the difficulty in fixing this inequality. At the end of the day though, the “meaning” of the film is something that will likely vary from person to person, but I can at least assure you that almost everyone will be thinking about it long after leaving the cinema. 

 I’d also very much like to mention Parasite’s presentation; it would be criminal not to. I’m aware that praises like “top-tier cinematography and editing” can be quite general, but Parasite really does excel in these areas and more. This great YouTube video says it better than I can in writing alone, but to summarise, the team behind Parasite uses everything available to them to control the rhythm of the film to perfection, leading to an incredibly immersive experience. The visuals also paint a very stark contrast between the world of the rich and of the poor. On one hand there’s the chaotic, claustrophobic and colourful world of the slums and on the other there’s the spacious, tidy, modern house where everything is in its place and accounted for. Both of these domains are interesting in of themselves, but they work even better when put together.

 Finally, on the topic of Parasite’s amazing reception at the Oscar’s this year, I think it’s great. Judging it as a film in the same way you would any other nominee, its four Oscars are well-deserved, but even beyond that I’m really pleased that an international film was awarded Best Picture. I think that in an ideal world everyone would try out any piece of media regardless of genre, origin, and even medium, and form their own opinions on these categories rather than relying on stereotypes and word of mouth. Overcoming the “one-inch tall barrier that is subtitles”, as Bong Joon-Ho recently described it, is a significant step towards this ideal world, and Parasite’s historical Oscar sweep will likely be a huge catalyst in this for many people. After all, in the end we all just want to have a good time watching some great films, right?