Well, I can now confidently declare the first lock for an Oscar win this year — Director Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite” for Best Foreign Language Film.
There have been many award-worthy films, such as “Jojo Rabbit” and “Ford v Ferrari,” to come out over the past couple months, but none of them have been quite as mesmerizing and utterly shocking as Joon Ho’s “Parasite.” The South Korean director, who has developed his name and brand with peculiar films such as 2013’s “Snowpiercer” and 2017’s “Okja,” has crafted “Parasite,” a film unlike any other you’ll see this year. It’s disturbing, it’s funny, it’s thrilling and it’s a truly spellbinding work of art.
It’s also frustratingly difficult to talk about.
What makes it difficult to discuss is how scattered and truly bizarre the plot of the movie is. Set in modern-day South Korea, “Parasite” highlights the extreme contrasts in the standard of living and mental health between the upper and lower classes. There are constantly new developments and unexpected twists being thrown at the audience. However, instead of leading into a needlessly confusing maze of plot points, they all miraculously work together to make the film even more compelling with every turn. However, because of all of these different twists, it’s basically impossible to explain what the movie is about without delving into spoilers. And trust me, you do not, under any condition, want this movie spoiled for you.
Prior to “Parasite” I had only seen two of Joon Ho’s films — the aforementioned “Snowpiercer” and “Okja.” While I found “Snowpiercer” to be a thrilling experience, “Okja” was a little too goofy in my opinion. Despite my differing opinions on those films, the one constant was the raw talent and intensity of Joon Ho’s filmmaking. In “Parasite,” Joon Ho shows not just that he’s talented, but that he has the potential to be one of the most brilliantly idiosyncratic filmmakers in the industry.
From beginning to end, “Parasite” is constantly shifting and morphing through distinctive tones and moods. At times, it feels like a comedy that explores the silly social antics of people from different backgrounds. On the other hand, there are disturbingly ominous and foreboding moments of the film that will make viewers squirm in their seats. Sometimes, Joon Ho will transition between tones so subtly that the audience barely even notices what’s happening. Other times, violently jarring transitions suddenly throw viewers into a vastly different situation.
“Parasite” uses these offbeat tones to trick the audience into jumping to false conclusions about what the film is about. It will seemingly be setting up one direction or story arc before flipping the entire story on its head and going down an alternate path that leads the audience further into its trap. It almost feels like “Parasite” is playing games with its viewers — taunting them with different expectations — only to reveal something entirely new and unforeseen. Joon Ho is consistently subverting the audience’s expectations, which makes “Parasite” one of the most unpredictable, unconventional and unsuspectingly sensational films I’ve seen in a long while.
“Parasite” will get Oscar nominations, it’s just a question of how many. It’s a shoe-in to win Best Foreign Language Film, and it will undoubtedly get a Best Picture nomination. Whether or not it will win the top-prize is still to be seen, but I would say you should run out and experience this movie as soon as possible, not only to be thrilled by the glory of Joon Ho’s filmmaking, but to become prepared to discuss it again come awards season.