A FILM might buckle under the weight of multiple Academy Award-winning expectations. Enshrined in history and recognised with the highest of honours, but doomed to disappoint those seeing it once the Oscars have passed and the red carpet is rolled up.
This will not be a lengthy review. To even touch upon plot would be to risk tainting it for anyone yet to see it. Do not read reviews (other than this one). Do not watch the trailer. Do not read synopses or the Wikipedia page or interviews with the director, Bong Joon-Ho, until after watching.
It is a film to be seen with only the vaguest idea of narrative set-up and context.
All you need to know is that Parasite is a tale of two families living in Seoul, South Korea. The Kims are very poor and live in a semi-basement with drunks urinating on the window. The Parks are very rich and live in a mansion designed by a celebrity architect that has windows almost bigger than the Kims’ place. The families form a surprising and unlikely relationship between one another. Enough. Light the touchpaper and stand back.
Bong has referred to subtitles in movies as a ‘one-inch tall barrier’ to be overcome, the result being that a whole new world of cinema can be discovered. Here, the story is so involving that the barrier may as well not be there. Even those with a foolish phobia of non-English language films will forget this is one five minutes in.
There are many reasons for this, but the uniformly outstanding cast are up there with the best. Song Kang-Ho, Lee Sun-Kyun, Cho Yeo-Jeong, Choi Woo-Shik, Park So-Dam, Lee Jung-Eun, Chang Hyae-Jin, Jung Ji-so – to miss out any of the central performances would be to do a disservice. The two family units are always engaging, believable and multi-layered in their dynamics.
So much is done well. The tension and suspense is scarcely sub-knife edge. The humour – it is more comedic than you may expect – is extremely well-judged, the tone never compromised by an over-abundance of gags. It is often very moving, utilising simple shots or lines to convey complex emotions. There is so much symbolism and so many apt references woven into the fabric of the story that it demands multiple viewings.
The score by Jung Jae-il is beautiful and haunting, changing as the on-screen events escalate and aiding the tonal fluidity that is entirely part of the film’s DNA.
The pace is perfectly judged and the writing constantly defies expectations. It is natural to attempt to foresee where a story will go – this one’s trajectory is never clear. Its themes and many possible readings will stew away for days afterwards, the film still playing out in the mind during train journeys, showers and daydreams.
Parasite, its director, and everyone behind it deserve every accolade that comes their way.
Go and see it.
Feature image credit: Neon