Don’t worry, this article doesn’t contain any spoilers. Proceed without fear.
To talk about Parasite in any detail is to ruin the movie for any prospective viewers. It’s a clever, knotty little film which twists and turns revealing new surprises around every corner. It’s a social satire which feels a little too true to our edge-of-the-abyss reality.
It’s also a film which you have to see.
The sheet brilliance of Parasite should be reason enough to go and see it for yourself. But it’s status as a smart, foreign-language picture which is becoming a mainstream sensation makes it even more essential viewing.
In a world where cinemas are increasingly reliant on tentpole franchise releases to draw audiences away from at-home streaming services, cinemas are less likely to take risks. Foreign language films, which may have been made in a cultural context alien to the cinema-going public, are often seen as a gamble. Then comes the perceived challenge of subtitles, which may put off some audience members because they are perceived as making a film less accessible. You can’t turn off your brain and just absorb bright colours and loud bangs when you have to do a little reading.
But Parasite thrives on the strength of its plot and Academy Award-winning screenplay. The translated dialogue sparkles with wit and personality, far from being a dry approximation of the Korean language. Undoubtedly, as with any foreign language, the choice of certain words will have more significance to Korean speakers and will convey subtleties which cannot be translated into English. Far from being an impenetrable barrier, the subtitles draw you into the lives of the Kim and Park families, forcing you to pay attention. Parasite is a strong enough film that it rewards you for every minute of attention with strong messages and genuine humour.
Maybe Parasite will be the trailblazer for a new era of internationalism in filmmaking? It could be a fluke, but the film’s success with younger viewers could be a sign that Generation Z and Millennials are willing to adventure beyond Hollywood to discover more diverse stories which reflect the world they are inheriting.
But alongside music, money is a universal language (and the one that film executives and distributors listen to). The financial success of Parasite should send a message that audiences are not afraid of that one-inch tall barrier of subtitles and simply want to see amazing movies, regardless of where they come from.
Please, go and watch Parasite. And once you have been drawn in and discovered the magic of international cinema, go and support other foreign films.
Cinema at its best brings you into worlds you may never have considered, creates empathy and broadens horizons. Consider this your awakening.