What is Parasite about? Here's everything you need to know about this year's Oscars champion

Monday, 10th February 2020, 10:31 am
Updated Monday, 10th February 2020, 10:31 am

The Oscars pulled off a rare surprise by giving two of its highest honours to Bong Joon-ho's Parasite.

The South Korean social satire has wowed audiences across the globe, but it was still widely expected that Sam Mendes' war epic 1917 would dominate the Academy Awards thanks to its technically-impressive style and weighty subject matter.

However, the love for Parasite proved too strong and it ended up taking home more awards than any other film, including a couple of the most prestigious gongs going.

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Here's everything you need to know about the South Korean sleeper hit.

Parasite is a crime caper with a biting social commentary. Picture: CJ Entertainment

What is Parasite about?

Parasite is mostly a tale of two families, one rich and one poor.

The four members of the Kim family live together in a cramped, stinkbug-riddled basement apartment. With no real opportunities to be found, they scrounge together a living as part of the gig economy, stealing wi-fi from their neighbours and eating cheap junk food.

Meanwhile, the Parks live in a beautiful home designed by a famous architect, enjoying every material luxury imaginable.

Ki-Woo (Choi Woo-shik), the son of the family, poses as a university student and takes a job as tutor to the Park’s young daughter, Park Da-hye (Jung Ji-so). Having found an entry point into the world of the upper class, he and his family launch a scheme to stay there.

Why is its Oscars success so surprising?

While critics and cinephiles have been pointing to South Korea for years as a hotbed of innovative, excellent cinema, the Academy had never even nominated a movie from there until Parasite came around.

While rave reviews and excited popular response made its success in the International Film category all but assured, it still seemed unlikely to win elsewhere – a foreign language movie had never before won Best Picture.

With big, showy historical movies like 1917 also in the running, Parasite's chances seemed slim to none at an awards ceremony that is not known for having the most expansive taste in movies.

So when Parasite's name was called instead of 1917's, it really was one of the most shocking moments in Oscars history.

The struggles of modern capitalism resonate around the world, as Parasite proves. Picture: CJ Entertainment

Why has it been such a hit?

Parasite made Oscars history when it took home the awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best International Film and Best Original Screenplay. Given how rarely foreign films are even nominated in most of these categories, Parasite's success has been truly astonishing.

It's not just critics and industry members who adore it though – the film has been a huge hit with filmgoers across the world, becoming the highest grossing film in South Korean history while also garnering huge crowds overseas.

At a time when the box office is dominated by familiar characters and big budget, effects-driven movies, Parasite has bucked the trend and become a sleeper hit everywhere it has gone.

So why has a comparatively small South Korean movie been able to take the world by storm?

Its themes seem to have resonated with viewers all over the globe – social class, the squalor in which poorer people are forced to live, the extravagance of those above them and the near impossibility of moving between the two.

Unlike many of the big issue movies the Oscars tend to honour, Parasite is also just a really fun time at the cinema, filled with sharp humour and characters who are too endearing not to root for, even as their actions become more and more questionable.

What else has Bong Joon-ho made?

Parasite has been celebrated for the master craftmanship of its director, Bong Joon-ho, who has quickly become a recognisable name all over the world.

Simply put, Parasite is a beautifully-made movie and viewers around the world have responded to its meticulous style of storytelling.

Parasite is by far and away the director's most successful movie, both in critical and commercial terms.

Although this will seem like a breakthrough to many, Bong has been an accalimed director in South Korea for many years thanks to films like Mother, The Host and Memories of Murder.

He has also found huge success in recent years making films that bring together stars from both Hollywood and his home country for the likes of 2013's locomotive dystopia Snowpiercer and 2017's animal-friendly Okja.

Where can I watch Parasite?

Parasite was released in UK cinemas on Friday 7 February 2020.

This article originally appeared on our sister site, The i.