Movie posters have fallen to the wayside with the accessibility of movie trailers. Capturing the essence of a complex movie in a single image is nearly impossible, which makes each attempt impressive.
For a film whose marketing depends on an international audience ‒ like Bong Joon Ho’s masterpiece, Parasite, striking visuals are the key to engaging viewers. Parasite’s trailer is masterful, but its many international movie posters say more with less.
Bong said in his Golden Globe acceptance speech, “I think, in Korea, we use just one language – the cinema.” Having directed films in both English and Korean, Bong is able to tell stories outside the boundaries of language. First and foremost, this ability starts with making a single moment shine.
There’s no doubt Parasite has struck film gold. It’s won almost all the awards it’s eligible for, and with six nominations at the upcoming Oscars, there’s likely more winning to come. It’s not too late to get on the hype train. In fact, Parasite is becoming every bit more a must-watch with each record it sets.
In appreciation of the cultural milestone that is Parasite, it’s worth discussing the various images that have represented the film – its posters. There will be minor spoilers in the analysis of each poster. If spoilers are a concern, watch the movie – if you’re still not convinced, let these fascinating images make the strongest argument of all.
This is the primary poster for Parasite promoted by its American distributor, NEON. The wealthy parents of the Park family lay back on pool chairs drinking wine while disembodied legs lay in the grass. The Parks have little care for people like the Kims. The white and black bars covering the eyes of the Parks and Kim, respectively, represent the way the two families are portrayed as opposites throughout the film. Overall, it’s an impressive poster, but overshadowed by many ones that follow.
This poster was most commonly distributed by the French-language distributor “The Jokers.” The Parks and Kims are depicted as a single family. This time, the bars covering everyone’s eyes are the black. Each member of the Park family wears shoes and traditionally nice clothing, while the Kims are barefoot and in casual attire. Even in this faux family portrait, the two families aren’t on the same footing. The Parks pose and smile in front of the same disembodied legs, hinting at their apathy toward those worse-off all around them.
Here, each member of the Kim family is depicted on a scholar’s rock the size of a giant boulder, and each member of the Park family stands below the Kims. A flowered tree branch stretches out at the families. In the reflection on the water below, the entire image is flipped – the Kim father’s reflection is that of Park father’s and vice-versa. Each member of the family is reflected as their ‘opposite’ and even the branch is flowerless. The poster tells two stories. In the top, flowers grow and the Kim family takes precedence. In the reflection, everything is flipped; everything is darker. The question, then, is which image is the true depiction: the top or its darker reflection?
This poster is a less complex version of the previous one. The scholar’s rock is now a volcano with lava flowing down its sides, flooding whatever lies below. Waves lash up at the volcano, attacking the center from both sides.
Here, the Kim father, arguably the key character of the film, acts as a canvas. His head features the glowing, bright, colorful image of the Park family’s sprawling mansion. On his shoulders is the upside-down depiction of the neighborhood where the Kim family’s home is located. The image is a dark, colorless sketch, much less vibrant than the actual neighborhood in the film.
This freelance-designed poster was released as a promotional item following Parasite’s Golden Globe victory. It’s jam packed with allusions to the film: the waves, the blocked out eyes, the self portrait, the scholar’s rock, even the disembodied legs which have resurfaced many times. It’s basically a “Where’s Waldo?” of Parasite references, perfect for any film nerd.
This is an independently designed poster released by “The Jokers.” The stratification of classes is accentuated with the Park’s mansion directly above the Kim’s flooded semi-basement. The working class look to be climbing up, struggling to avoid the destruction below.
A great movie poster is iconic. Brad Pitt holding the bar of soap in Fight Club; Christian Bale’s Batman standing in front of a burning Gotham in The Dark Knight – these images are etched into pop culture lore. A great movie poster should pop in your mind when the film’s name is mentioned. It sticks itself in one’s head and won’t let go, ironically enough, just like a parasite.
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