Whatever happens on Oscar Sunday, Bong Joon Ho's Parasite is already a remarkable piece of cinematic history, as it has become one of the most recognized and rewarded foreign language films of all-time. It's rare for any movie not in English to be nominated for Best Picture, but beyond simply being nominated, there are many that think the movie has a real chance at winning the award, something no foreign language film has ever done.
It's a pretty massive accomplishment for a movie entirely in Korean and very much about the social structures one finds in South Korea. However, Bong Joon Ho recently told Deadline that he never had any worry that his film would not connect with those outside his home country. The themes were universal, but beyond that, the director realized that even some of the tiny details of the film crossed cultural and language boundaries. According to the director...
In the end, while some of the specifics of the Kim family's situation might be unique to South Korea, Parasite is ultimately a movie about class conflict. And that means that there are going to be a lot of details that people from all over the world understand, regardless of culture, because these broader themes exist anywhere you have such conflicts.
In the case of the one scene you're probably familiar with even if you haven't seen the movie, the "Jessica jingle" in which Park So Dam uses an auditory trick in order to help her character remember her cover story, that's not a concept exclusive to South Korea, as Bong Joon Ho learned that many other places can use similar tricks.
Certainly, there may have been some elements of Parasite that those not familiar with South Korea wouldn't necessarily understand. The semi-basement apartment and the underground shelter that play pivotal roles in the story would be very familiar to South Korean audiences but might seem unusual when viewed elsewhere. However, in the end, the things that an audience tends latch onto in order to relate to characters are the little things, as Bong Joon Ho continues,
Clearly, Bong Joon Ho is right that, in the end, the way people lead their lives tends to be the same. Parasite's global success is evidence of that. Whether or not that global understanding will be enough for the movie to have a successful night at the Academy Awards this Sunday, is a question we'll have to wait to answer.
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