THE NO-SPOILERS GUIDE TO PARASITE
Feature photo courtesy of @parasitemovie
Why You Should Go In Cold
Surely you’ve heard of Parasite by now, the Oscar-worthy masterpiece directed by Bong Joon Ho. This dark comedy-thriller is experiencing its second wave of public interest as it was recently nominated for six Oscars, one of which is the prestigious Best Picture award!! I recently watched the film and as it continues to haunt me on the daily, I’ve made some realizations (and done some research) that I feel would benefit those of you who are planning to watch the film --both for the first time or again.
I went into this film viewing ~experience~ with a vague understanding of the plot so the twists definitely still got me good. BUT, I believe that the ideal way to watch this film for the first time is to have absolutely no knowledge of the plot; go in cold. That way, you are completely carried through the story by the film and not any of your own preconceptions. If you want to cure your curiosities about this film, just go watch it because no video or review can even begin to illustrate the ideas Bong Joon Ho paints in Parasite.
So then, Carolyn, what the heck is this article doing?
I’ve taken it upon myself to review this film with no (explicit) spoilers, but rather with a few kernels of knowledge and suggestions for you to keep in mind while you watch Parasite so that you might appreciate the genius of Bong Joon Ho a little bit more.
Parasite-- the title itself is quite telling. Metaphorical, of course, but aimed at who? At no point does Bong point fingers at a clear villain or literal “parasite,” The flow of the film shifts at numerous points, satirizing humanity’s natural inclination toward social division and the illusion of power. When I watched the film, each action point challenged my perception of who could be considered a parasite; it was actively breaking down my instinct to think in binaries. Not only are the key players in this film excluded from the division of good versus bad, but they’re also portrayed as people struggling with various conflicts rooted in the same problem. Keep in mind that there are conflicts within and between the characters and society beyond what is explicitly shown.
Warning: it gets complicated and you will be hit with realizations days after watching the film so prepare for multiple moments when your brain just *clicks.*
Bong is a meticulous planner. When developing the script and storyboard, he planned out every detail, setting the parallels, establishing the rhythm and the symbolism of objects, movements, and mise en scene*. The camera’s perspective feels detached, as though the viewers are floating through the scenes objectively--but not quite. Objectivity allows you as the viewer to constantly be aware of the contrasting lives and perspectives of each character in the scene. But notice the movement of the film, its flow. Which character is establishing the rhythm? Are you looking down at the character or up? How are the characters positioned in relation to each other? Using these techniques, Bong controls the audience’s perception of the constant shifts in power between characters and takes us for a ride.
Lastly, and maybe the easiest thing to keep in mind for you to appreciate the film, is the beauty of it. The character positioning, set design, use of lighting, and mise en scene, all have symbolic meaning but you’ll have to find those for yourself or look them up after. In the moment as you watch the film, just enjoy it. It’s beautiful, artistic, and (at some points) peaceful.
I’m sure there is more that I have yet to discover within the layers of Parasite. I tried to keep my suggestions simple, including information that allowed me to understand how important Bong Joon Ho’s mind is to the success of this film, and so that you might also think of it as more than just a movie but rather a social commentary deserving of making history by being the first foreign-languge title to win the Oscar for best picture and best director (and probably all its other nominations) this year.
*mise en scene: the arrangement of scenery and props