The most original film of the decade
Bong Joon-ho accepts the Best Director award for Parasite during the 25th Annual Critics’ Choice Awards in Santa Monica, California.
The most original film of the decade
Lanz Aaron G. Tan (The Philippine Star) - January 15, 2020 - 12:00am

Film review: Parasite

MANILA, Philippines — It’s difficult to contemplate the genius of Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite without first watching it. It’s difficult to even ascribe the South Korean masterpiece to a genre: Satire? Thriller? Black comedy? Very little specifics can be committed to writing without spoiling the film’s groundbreaking plot. 

Perhaps you’ve heard of Parasite and you’re hesitant of its unprecedented success (which includes an unanimous Palme d’Or win at the Cannes Film Festival). While admittedly intellectual, Bong Joon-ho’s earlier filmography (which features Snowpiercer and Okja) always seemed to falter in its execution, falling slightly short of extremely lofty, conceptual premises. But with Parasite, execution meets premise in a film that blurs the line between exaggerated disbelief and uncomfortable reality. 

The film opens with a humble working class family living in a sub-basement, making their way by folding pizza boxes. Soon, an opportunity opens up for their son to tutor a wealthy client in an upscale neighborhood; this could be the much-needed chance the family has been looking for to propel themselves up the social ladder. 

However, as with many Bong Joon-ho films, an hour in to its runtime, the plot unravels underneath it like a trap door opening to increasingly shocking possibilities, leaving audiences groping in the darkness of confused vulnerability. Perhaps that’s the best way to describe the feeling of watching Parasite: suspended unease and tension. But it’s through this vulnerability that Parasite manages to wield its thematic poignancy. Themes include the gullibility of the rich, the tenability of the working class and the unbreakable class structure which grounds people in their place; we’re all inevitable victims of a society that champions capitalism. 

Although Korean is an admittedly alien language in the Philippines, there could not be a more universal story of Sisyphean struggle in the human condition. And specifically, nowhere could a tale of such gaping inequality and apathy land harder than it would in Manila. As Bong Joon-ho said when accepting Best Foreign Language Film award at The Golden Globes, “Once you overcome the one inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be exposed to so many more amazing films.” 

Look for Parasite to make a curtain call at select cinemas in anticipation for the awards season.

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