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Why Everyone Should Watch Parasite

Parasite is, as a masterful example of filmmaking, a compelling story of two families and their everyday collisions and an unapologetic piece of social commentary.

Feb 29, 2020

As far as I’m concerned, Parasite deserved to win Best Picture at the 2020 Oscars.
The lingering Academy Award buzz serves as a reminder that 2019 was a great year for films and the ideal conclusion to a transformative decade of cinematic history. I am especially happy as a film enthusiast to know that I will remember this decade for good films — enough to forget that I sat through 123 minutes of Suicide Squad.
There’s a lot of international acclaim directed at Parasite. Even if you’ve never watched a foreign language film, this is by far the most accessible, regardless of the language or culture it comes from. It provides a raw image of the South Korean reality of classism, but the portrayal is universally representative of any country, adding to its reliability and universality.
I would discourage you from watching the trailer and urge you to dive right into the film instead. The plot is a hybrid of a lot of things. It has been called a heist movie, a drama, a thriller, you name it. The dark humor persists throughout, but the comedy turns into tragedy on both a micro and macro scale. The entirety of the film hinges on sudden shifts of mood and sequences that take you by surprise. It follows the stories of two families, the Parks and the Kims, as their lives become tethered first symbiotically and then in an aggressively parasitic way.
There is often a yearning and frustration accompanying the search for a great film. I might just be unreasonably picky but for me to be impressed, a film has to do a couple of things. First of all, it needs to be intelligent. It should respect its audience without being too watered down, serving merely as a money-minting crowd-pleaser. Secondly, it has to have a vision and make you see it without having to spell it out for you.
There are a lot of films that check all those boxes for me. But Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite didn’t just breeze through my checklist, it picked up the pen, drew its own boxes and checked off things that I didn’t even realize I could want from a film. It’s undeniably a movie that I would recommend to everyone.
Perhaps what propels this film to the top of all critics’ lists is the way all of its components work together so well to deliver an ensemble that a film student can talk about for ages. The direction needs no introduction, as Bong Joon-ho has created exceptional films in both Korean and English. The performances are also stunning with seasoned actors like Lee Jeong-eun and Song Kang-ho working alongside younger ones, like Choi Woo-shik and Park So-dam, to create an ever-changing atmosphere of hope and despair.
What everyone seems to be talking about the most, however, is the cinematography and production design. The perfection with which every frame is shot tells its own story and complements its witty and much appreciated dialogue. The film is a visual treat, from the lighting to the color palette, with the contrast between the two accentuated the most when moving from the high society house of one family to the half basement of the other. Besides camera angles, the set is uniquely designed by the director to fit into the mold of what he called a “staircase movie”. The camera focuses on the characters walking up and down the stairs and is used to categorize the movement of characters up and down the social ladder. This is a commentary on rigid South Korean power structures without much room for class mobility.
Every aspect of the film seems to be geared towards the director’s characteristic social commentary, which is only there to show you the truth. By the end, everything that the film portrayed to be true in the beginning has been overturned. But while the lives of the characters have been impacted by each cataclysmic event, the greater societal structure that Bong Joon-ho is pointing to is still more or less intact.
Parasite is a masterful example of filmmaking. It is a compelling story of two families and their everyday collisions and an unapologetic piece of social commentary making it as complex as the structure of the Park house and the world outside its walls.
Joanna Orphanide is a Staff Writer. Email her at
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