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.