Parasite Photograph:( Twitter )
'Parasite' is like a slap on the conscience of the upper-middle class and the upper class of society.
How much can you expect from a film? How fair is it to ask a film to perform according to our expectations? Can a film ever be worth the hype when we're already told it has won some major awards?
These were some of the questions on my mind when I sat down to watch 'Parasite'. It's not the first time that a film that's not in the English language has raised so much curiosity. But it's different this time around.
I watched it weeks before the Oscars. But even then the expectations were tremendous. The film had already swept the awards circuit. Winning the Palme d'Or- the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
And it had been nominated for a total of 6 Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director.
And yet by the time I was done watching it, I had no idea what just hit me. One of the most unique films I had seen to date. One that cannot be slotted in any genre.
If at all there is one, then it can be named after its filmmaker - Bong Joon Ho.
Before 'Parasite', he made a film called 'Okja'. An action-adventure movie about a girl who's best friend is a genetically modified pig, which is nearly the size of an elephant, and an evil multinational corporation wants to get its hands on the pig at any cost.
Yeah, he is that weird. But in a way that delights our senses while watching his movies. I'll give you this for a synopsis of 'Parasite' - poor & jobless family befriends rich family to work in their household and tries to act wealthy. Things turn messy. That's all you need to know.
But in the times of the Internet, you would search and read far more. But seriously - don't. In fact, don't be friends with people who tell you the story of this film before you go watch it.
My friends just ooh-ed and aah-ed after watching it not telling me even a single real word. And thank God for that! It was a wallop of movie experience!
'Parasite' does everything, you're laughing hard with dark humour one moment and then suddenly you're gasping hard and biting your nails with tension. And when it's done, it won't leave you for the next 2-3 days - at least.
I couldn't stop reading about it and watching analytical videos online. There's so much subtext, that it's like a mini-crash course in Korean culture and history.
FYI the film is set in current times in the South Korean capital city of Seoul. And you don't need to know anything about the country or the city to get the film in the first go.
But you would find it extremely rewarding to read about it. And then watch it again.
Many say its not the best film that South Korea has produced.
That might be true because that's how high the standards are in the country's film industry. But it is a film that has the ability to strike a chord and engage almost anybody.
It has something at its core that's extremely relevant to the whole wide world. The unbridgeable gap of wealth inequality in society.
The economic class divide that has widened so much, that the upper socio-economic strata is too isolated from that of the lower ones.
And there are no easy resolutions to it.
Don't worry, the film is the polar opposite of a boring sermon on the topic. It thrills you and fills you with an insatiable urge to know what's gonna happen next.
Starting out as a black comedy, it morphs into a pulsating thriller with a finish that's not for the faint-hearted.
Nearly all your guesses about the twists and turns of the film will be wrong. Don't bother. All the film needs is a genuinely open-minded viewer who wants to be entertained. And as a bonus, it gives you something to think about as well.
I had predicted that it will win the Best Picture at the Oscars. And then thought that was just my heart talking. My brain kept telling me that it would be '1917' winning it.
But then - as one of the worst cliches in the world goes - the heart wants what it wants. And it was the heart all the way on Oscar night.
Mine, the film's and I'm guessing that of the Oscar jury as well. I just couldn't believe my luck!
'Parasite' was the toast of Oscars 2020, winning Best Picture and Best Director too, apart from Best Original Screenplay.
The Best Foreign-Language Film award was renamed just this year as Best International Feature. And 'Parasite' picked up that award too.
That was a big message from the Oscars. What is a 'foreign language' film? What's foreign to one is local to another.
My advice - don't go watch 'Parasite' now, thinking of it as this history-making film of the year. That's just putting too much pressure.
Nearly no film in this world can match up to those expectations. It's just one of those things that have been building up for a while actually. I'd say more than 20 years.
Films that are not in the English language have been hitting the high notes at the Oscars.
From Italian film 'Life Is Beautiful' in 1999, which was nominated for 7 Oscars and won 3, including the Best Actor. But didn't win Best Picture despite being nominated for it.
Silent film 'The Artist' swept the Oscars in 2012 with 10 nominations and 5 awards, including Best Picture.
And just last year black & white Mexican film 'Roma' was nominated for 10 Oscars. It won 3 including Best Director.
However, it failed to win the Best Picture Award.
But that could be attributed to the fact that it was Netflix-produced. To put it mildly, the Oscars have been less enthusiastic to give awards to online players' movies.
South Korean films over the last 2 decades have been some of the best in the world. Not surprisingly it was one of them that was the 'chosen one' to make history.
And when asked about it, the film's director Bong Joon Ho's reaction was - "We were just making a movie".
'Parasite' is like a slap on the conscience of the upper-middle class and the upper class of society. You'll know it when you see it.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)