Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite” was almost certainly cinema’s 2019 crown jewel. The film destroyed box offices worldwide, and swept up pretty much every award in its path. It made history as the first ever non-English film to win Best Picture at the Oscars. The movie was universally loved by critics, film buffs, and general audiences; but why? How was a movie the director himself called a “uniquely Korean” story able to resonate worldwide, and become a modern masterpiece?
According to video essayist Accented Cinema, the answer lies in “Parasite’s” construction. The film presents a story that is ultimately very relatable: one about class structure, and feeling left behind by the world around you. On top of that, the film uses some basic yet effective visual storytelling techniques to subtly convey tone and story elements.
Throughout the film, the camera placement is used to show power levels–a technique that dates all the way back to “Citizen Kane.” The basic idea is this: if the camera is looking up at a character, that character appears imposing and powerful; if the camera looks down at the character, they appear small and weak. This technique, as well as using visual separation within the frame, help the audience subconsciously understand and internally digest the power dynamics presented on screen.
Now, these ideas are not particularly complex. Rather, a lot of these techniques are straight from Cinematography 101. However, that’s a good thing. With less accessible arthouse films, like fellow Oscar contender “The Lighthouse,” people can get lost in the experimental filmmaking.
Instead, Bong Joon Ho and the team behind “Parasite” used incredibly strong filmmaking fundamentals to develop a film that was relatable and entertaining, yes, but also left audiences with a lot to think about in regards to modern life. That accessibility combined with “Parasite’s” expert craft to bring a really great movie to the screen that everyone can enjoy, and that is what truly makes it a masterpiece.