There is no 2019 film more difficult to talk about than “Parasite.”
The latest from Korean director Bong Joon-Ho is one of last year’s most impressive achievements on multiple fronts. That includes the secrecy surrounding it. The trailer for “Parasite” did something very few trailers made in the modern era do: it provided no answers.
Rather than plot, the trailer gave us intrigue. Instead of a self-contained story, it gave us something to look forward to. In place of simple expectations, it gave us a reason to go to the theater.
Perhaps a bit surprisingly, “Parasite” is a rather straightforward affair in terms of plot. The narrative rips by quickly and a cast of colorful, likable characters guide your way. There was one aspect of the film that really struck me and I only went on to appreciate it more and more as I thought harder about everything that happened in the film. That would be Lee Ha-Jun’s perfect production design.
Unlike something like editing, filmmakers often want you to notice and take a look at the sets and props that they display on screen. Production design is usually determined as being “good” if it captures the look of a different era or an elaborate science fiction world. While that breed of design is often worthy of praise, “Parasite” reminds us that it’s more important for the characters to recognize the meaning of their environment than it is for the audience to do so. This is one of the ways in which we find the most satisfying immersion possible.
My highest recommendation would be to actually see “Parasite” yourself, but I would encourage you to consider the way the characters, specifically the Kim family, use the house where most of the action takes place to their advantage.
Worthy of note is the fact that the aforementioned house was built specifically for the film. Knowing this, every bedroom needed to be laid out in just the right place. A particular sequence involving a table also probably falls through if said table was placed in a different part of the room. And, as you’ll hear from most anyone who reviews “Parasite,” the basement is an architecturally and thematically brilliant spot.
I get excited any time two people in different roles within the filmmaking process are on the same page. In this case, it was the writer/director and the production designer. It’s pretty inspiring to see the collaborative process that is making a film come to life in such a powerful way.
Sam Zavada is a copy editor with The Standard-Speaker in Hazleton. He previously served as the news clerk at The Standard-Speaker, working with the obituaries and the community and lifestyle pages. Sam’s work in print dates back to his time at King’s College, where he spent two years as the editor in chief of the school’s newspaper, The Crown. Earlier in his time with The Crown, he worked as a staff writer and the entertainment manager. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.