Around this time of year, the Oscar buzz is inescapable so I try to see as many of the nominations as possible. However, this year, I became so incredibly bored. The same films were being churned out of the major production studios: remakes, biopics, war films… The cast of every nominated film was already well-established, seen before, and oh so unignorably white. That is, except for Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite.
I don’t know what I was expecting but any of my conditioned and ignorant expectations were blown out of the water. It is nothing short of an extraordinary piece of cinema. ‘Extraordinary’ is the perfect word for it; it stands out from other pictures in its league with a violent reverence. It’s an intricate interrogation of the cruel class system of South Korea- a topic I knew nothing about. Telling the story of a poor, yet intelligent and skilled, family who sneak their way through hidden identity into the employment of a wealthy family. I really don’t want to tell you any more than that, so as not to spoil the film’s masterful, unfolding narrative, but just know that the family’s escapade isn’t all that simple.
The story unravels throughout, and yes there are subtitles. To many Twitter warriors (predominantly Tarantino/Joker obsessed ‘meninists’) this a barrier and makes the film unable to be viewed by an English-speaking audience. This is nonsense, and the subtitles only contribute to the masterful isolation between action and narrative, adding to the violent tension.
The film tackles major issues: Western ignorance, the naivety of the parent and the fetishization of the working classes, and it does so with a haunting delicacy. The thought and dynamic execution behind every action, line and shot is stellar. It makes any of the other nominated pictures look lazy in their creation. It is bold, disturbing, funny, heart-breaking and visceral in its distressing reality. It feels dystopian, but it isn’t. There is such superb urgency in the way its story is crafted and executed- it is the definition of masterful cinema. It does everything a film of its calibre should: it tells a story with deep roots in the political and moral issues of its society, stirring an emotional urgency from its spectators. This urgency opposes the bland complacency of Hollywood, as the same stories are somewhat regurgitated. Parasite is refreshing and unforgettable.
In review of Parasite, it is important not to hold it as ‘the Other’ in the ‘Best Picture’ category, just because it is told in a language other than English. Before it won the award, I really had lost hope in the Academy; it is supposed to be a body representative of the best of world cinema, but for too long some of the best works were hidden as ‘Best Foreign Picture’, instead of ‘Best Picture’. Parasite’s recognition is not just a victory for Korean Cinema, but for all film, as stories outside of the English language finally have a much more global screen to be shown on, and rightfully so.
Go and see this film- go and have your mind somewhat blown- you will not regret it.