Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite” has been making a name for itself across media, drawing in exceptional reviews for its visuals, storytelling and themes. Many around the globe are calling it one of the best (if not the best) films of 2019 – the numerous awards handed out in ceremonies throughout the world further emphasize the global recognition it has garnered.
Although “Parasite” is the Korean filmmaker’s most recognized work in an international point of view, it is by no means Bong’s first hit. Other notable works, such as the crime drama “Memories of Murder,” monster film “The Host” and sci-fi adventure “Okja” has made him recognized as one of the greatest Korean filmmakers from both the domestic and the international audience.
In general, foreign language films rarely achieve significant attention in the U.S. compared to their domestic competition, but now and then there are examples that surpass the language barrier to find its way to the U.S. mainstream audience. “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Life is Beautiful,” two of the highest-grossing foreign language films in the U.S. according to IMDb, are examples of this.
Part of “Parasite's” international commercial success can be attributed to Bong’s consistency of creating one successful work after another, which has raised higher and higher expectations for his upcoming works.
Yet, unlike the buzz surrounding Bong’s latest feature, his older films have been contained to a niche, in addition to the Korean viewership. But this niche seems to have gained more presence as “Parasite” keeps increasing its influence abroad. Another important factor that has affected the movie’s popularity is the incredibly positive social media response and word-of-mouth recommendations.
It is difficult to say for sure that “Parasite” will make people more responsive to films from abroad like this in the future, but Bong will certainly gain a bigger following after this international hit.
There are numerous aspects of Bong’s “Parasite” that make it appealing. Bong’s movies usually involve a plot which unveils a particular aspect about society that runs rampant, out-of-control and invisible – with a good serving of dark humor, of course.
Perhaps these social issues aren’t constantly noticed in the quiet passing of our lives, but stories often serve the purpose of putting the uncomfortable truths into the spotlight. Bong displays it quite shamelessly on wide-screen with great emotional impact and eye-catching entertainment.
In “Parasite,” Bong focuses on the socioeconomic issues prevalent in South Korea. Much of the conflict is stirred by the impacts of income gap, represented by two families of the opposite economic status. Something that is also referred to in the movie – and is also prevalent in many circumstances of students – is the relationship between prestige, money and education.
The story is based on modern South Korea, so there may be details about the characters and setting that are harder to catch or understand without cultural context. Despite the cultural differences, the struggle for prosperity as well as status in a capitalist system is something that any audience can resonate with. And when the gap between the lower and upper classes becomes more apparent, it can also feel hopeless to outdo that system in order to rise a little higher.
"'Okja,' 'Snowpiercer,' 'Parasite,' they’re all stories about capitalism. Before it’s a massive, sociological term, capitalism is just our lives.” Bong said, according to an interview by Vulture.
After winning the Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globe Awards on Jan. 5, in his speech Bong expressed his wish for people to be able to watch films of any language: “Once you overcome the one inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films."
Films from other countries may be of a different language, but they can also serve as a bridge between countries so people can overcome differences and find more similarities in societies miles away.