The South Korean film industry was pulled into the spotlight in 2019 after the success of Boon Joon-ho’s Parasite, the director that also gave us Snowpiercer (2013). After taking home four awards at the 92nd Academy Awards in 2020, they not only gained more recognition from everyone in and outside the industry but became the first South Korean and non-English language movie to win the best picture. Those who have watched it would understand why, and if you haven’t managed to, then you should.
The art of storytelling is magnificent in the blockbuster, with each scene offering up an unexpected scenario, in the end, causing a domino effect of unfortunate events. Joon-ho effortlessly depicts the contrasting lives of families from different social classes, The Park's being upper-class and The Kim's working-class – with the latter proving to be just as intelligent and capable to pull the wool over unsuspecting eyes. Joon-ho's brilliant influence is deeply affixed to the movie, with his ingenious mind being the influence for the four different sets shown.
Providing his precise attention to detail with the creation of the four locations that include, the Park family home, the basement, the Kim apartment, and the Flood - he successfully brings his world to life with pinpoint execution.
Joon-ho was determined to emphasise the gap between the two families, done so by production-built sets which can be likened to a how-the-other-half-live concept. The Park house is spacious but comes with privacy, with the Kim apartment being the opposite, surrounded by storefronts and other homes that lead onto the street - a structure that can cause more damage to an area which was noticeable in the flood scene.
Speaking about the design in an interview, Boon says: “The second half of the film didn’t actually occur to me for the first few years I was thinking about this story.
“Then it all came to me, and I wrote like it was a hurricane.” The satirical movie is truly a work of art, but not the first innovative film to come out of South Korea.
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The emergence of Korean film came in 1919, with the release of Kim Do-san’s The Righteous Revenge premiering at Seoul’s Dansungsa theatre that was established in 1907. After the release of Righteous Revenge, the output of films halted for a while and then had a massive rise from the mid-90s to the early 2000s, labelled Korean New Wave cinema. Countless cinematic changes and upgrades have been witnessed from then until now, opening up a chamber of enthralling creations.
For as long as we can remember, movies and shows that created an impact came from the U.K or the US, but in recent times, many people have been in a love affair with South Korean production. We’ve all been in the situation where we tell ourselves, “why didn’t I start this sooner,” and this is how many of us thought with myself included. Storing the naivety of not being bothered to read a few subtitles. That may have been the case then, but how times have changed. Parasite is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to imaginative movies created there, upon watching one, you’ll end up caught in a web of South Korean films that have upped the levels with their screenplay and creative direction. Their ability to reach and surpass previous levels that have been set with complete ease is extraordinary; however, possibly unbeknownst to some, this was already the case. A film with an excess of replay value, coming out two years before Parasite, is the imaginative, Forgotten.
Forgotten is a physiological thriller that, upon finishing, you’ll immediately want to watch the film again to spot all the clues that were laid out on the table for you. The seemingly lovable family consisting of Jin Seok (Kang Ha-Neul), Yoo-Seok (Kim Mu-Yeol), Father (Moon Seong-Geun) and Mother (Na Young-hee) are introduced as the almost-ideal family in a middle-class area of Korea. The early screenplay, as it must, does brilliantly well to paint over the genuine plot of the capturing movie. From the outset, Jin Seok is portrayed as the younger brother that is constantly in awe of his older sibling – a feeling that will drastically change in the blink of an eye. A movie that gives us constant twists and turns with a shocking revelation that’ll change everything – a definite one to watch.
The quietly progressive rise of the productions, regardless of the success of Parasite, has been remarkable. Its accomplishments may not have been expected by many, but rightfully deserved. With most of the ideas brought to life noticeably inspired by external influences, they are now undefeated when it comes to high expectations.
Whether or not a handful of ideas brought to life are from external influences – they are now undefeated when it comes to high expectations. The consistency of merging overused, but engrossing storylines and adding their unique stamp on them give them the capability of providing us with the shock factor and edge-of-your-seat drama we crave to see.
The credibility of their productions has been registered around the world, with films and series such as Train to Busan, Kingdom, The handmaiden, and The Call. In 2021, coming to the forefront was the global sensation that is Squid Game. In the simplest of terms, you couldn’t go one day without anyone mentioning it, either in person or on social media. Netflix’s groundbreaking show was a depiction of how individuals that require money, would do almost anything to gain it.
Set on an unknown island off the coast of South Korea, willing contestants are put through their paces in the life-or-death game-within-a-show. The main protagonist Seong Gi-Hun (player 456), played by renowned South Korean actor, Lee Jung-jae is the in-debt, divorced gambler that tends to live on the edge. Alongside co-stars: Kang Sae-byeok (HoYeon Jung), Cho Sang-Woo (Park Hae-soo) and Oh II-nam (O Yeong-su) – they and others competed in games such as Tug Of War, Marbles and the infamous Red Light, Green Light.
A significant element to what makes a show/film is the cinematography – an addition that stood out to many. The show is layered with mesmerising architecture and vibrant lighting, contradictory to the dark tone throughout the series. When researching the Easter eggs, you realise how perfectly produced it was.
Squid Game’s success is truly mind-blowing, due to Director (Hwang Dong-hyuk) 10-year attempt to get it off the ground, written originally as a film – luckily, it got scrapped. Netflix has had an impressive influx of high-grossing series that have captivated the minds of many around the world; however, not one comes close to Squid Game. The show garnered an impressive 1.6 Billion viewing in its first 28 days of release, after the premiere on September 17th 2021.
The show caused large waves in the industry, gaining recognition from The Golden Globes at their 79th annual award show. After being nominated for three awards; Best actor in a drama TV series, Best drama TV series and Best supporting act in a series - with the only victory coming from that latter, after a spotless O Yeong-su performance for his portrayal as Oh II-nam.
Netflix/ Squid Game
In the present day, we’re starting to see South Korean productions flawlessly come into ascendency. Netflix seem to have been gifted a cheat code with their productions, with every series warmly received. An example of this is the new Netflix show, All of Us Are Dead, which premiered on January 28th 2022, coming as a continuation of their well-known love affair with the Zombie storyline. Time and time again, we’re provided with gripping entertainment that almost always becomes a trending topic on social media. The hype they now have has skyrocketed and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Expect to see more productions that will become a sensation.