When Bong Joon-ho won the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2019, Parasite was the first South Korean film ever awarded the festival’s top prize. Almost a year later, director Bong accomplished another series of firsts. At this year’s Oscars, Parasite was honoured not only with the Best International Feature Film award but became the first non-English language film to win Best Picture in the Academy’s ninety-two-year history. The accolades didn’t stop here. Bong also won Best Director, beating cinematic heavyweight – and one of his heroes – Martin Scorsese, and the award for Best Original Screenplay.

Truth be told, I think little of awards as a measure of a film’s success or cultural value. But it’s impossible to deny the significance of Parasite’s multiple wins; in this case, every prize is earned. Parasite is that rare thing – a genre-blending arthouse triumph with mainstream audience appeal. It’s smart and it’s fun plus it’s easy to see why a black comedy/thriller about class warfare has connected at a time when the gap between the haves and have-nots across the globe is wider than ever. In Parasite, the Kim family lives in poverty in a small semi-basement apartment, and industriously and hilariously find a way to bridge that gap. They infiltrate the wealthy Park family’s home – not to do them harm, but simply to be able to do a day’s work. What follows will shock and stir, but above all entertain. But the less I tell you about Parasite’s plot the better. This is a film where it really pays to be surprised.

Bong’s tragicomic capitalist critique is a film where every detail counts. The Kim and Park families are mirror opposites, and importantly, so are their homes. Social inequality is built into the film’s intelligent visual design; especially into every staircase and polished surface of the Park’s marvellous abode. By Parasite’s breathtaking, open ending, you’ll be questioning just who the bloodsuckers in this arrangement really are.

Joanna Di Mattia works as a bookseller at Readings Carlton.

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Parasite (DVD)

Parasite (DVD)

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