The much celebrated and multi-award winning Parasite gets a fresh lick of monochrome for a new roll out which gives Bong Joon-ho’s film a more timeless aesthetic to support its thematically rich tale of the silent war amongst the classes. After providing the same treatment to his film Mother, and joining the likes of Mad Max: Fury Road and Logan, there is a debate to be had over whether black and white treatments add all that much to the overall experience, but any excuse to revisit Bong’s latest is something that is very hard to pass up.
The Kim family – made up of father Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho), mother Chung-sook (Jang Hye-Jin, son Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik) and daughter Ki-jung (Park So-dam) – live in a semi-basement apartment and struggle to make ends meet, taking on small part time jobs where they can in order to get by. When Ki-woo is offered the chance to teach English to the daughter of the very wealthy Park family, Ki-woo soon devises a way to integrate his whole family into the Park household as other household employees, through not entirely honest means. What could go wrong?
As with all of Bong Joon-ho’s films, the joy in Parasite comes from seeing how he manages to weave in a number of tones into a drama in order to keep up a palpable sense of surprise throughout. Parasite begins as a comedy of manners, before morphing into something else entirely that drives home the ugly reality hiding just beneath the surface of these characters lives. I won’t go into detail here. Yes, it may have been out for weeks now, but I’d hate to be the person that reveals the twists and turns of satire/class struggles drama to someone who has yet to step in the world of Parasite. If diving in for the first time, it is best to go in as clean as possible, but if you’re coming back for the third of tenth time, this black and white version offers a means to see that drama play out in a manner that reinforces the strong thematic backbone of the recent Best Picture winner.
What the black and white version offers is an aesthetic that allows this film to feel more timeless, akin in spirit to some of the older films of Hitchcock that Bong Joon-ho clearly has an affection for (namely Psycho and Strangers on a Train). That enforced sense of timeliness also comes with it a sensation that feels more sinister, strengthening that sense that all is not as it seems on the surface. It makes the whole thing feel more like a tragic fable, but it is hard to know if that idea comes more to the fore as a result of the fact that I am re-visiting the film and finding more meaning within it, or whether it is because of the black and white colour grade. It certainly brings specific images more to the fore, and adds greater contrast to the environments within the film, namely the difference between the Kim’s rundown semi-basement abode and the Park’s very pristine and modern home, so in that regard one can easily determine that this new version, at the very least, gives more emphasis to the contrasts that define the characters of the film, and therein the most significant symbol of the tension forged by their differences.
It is also very clearly a dedicated and carefully designed grading, one that feels as though it has been conducted with a passionate curiosity to see how such a way of viewing the story can change one’s reading of it. As with other conversions before it, I am sure there will be much debate and opinions over whether the experience adds all that much to an already thematically bountiful and beautifully articulated film. Yet, despite whether you think it is all that necessary, there’s certainly a level of curiosity to the prospect that is hard to deny. It certainly doesn’t take anything away from the proceedings; the performances are all, of course, still highly engaging, with the story itself remaining an enticing lunchbox that is equally as delicious to unpack even when you know where it’s going. This re-graded version offers a palette of black and white, and all the greys in between, for you to re-engage with this marvellously executed film and further engage with all that it has to offer in a manner undeniably provoking.
Dir: Joon-Ho Bong
Scr: Joon-Ho Bong, Han Jin Won
Cast: Kang-ho Song, Sun-kyun Lee, Yeo-Jeong Jo, So-dam Park
Prd: Yang-kwon Moon, Sin-ae Kwak, Young-Hwan Jang, Joon-ho Bong
DOP: Kyung-pyo Hong
Music: Jaeil Jung
Country: South Korea
Runtime: 142 min
The black and white version of Parasite will play in selected cinemas across the UK from Friday 3rd April