Parasite writes Oscars history

The film Parasite and its director Bong Joon-ho are the big winners of the 2020 Oscars. For the first time in the history of the world's most coveted film awards, a non-English-language film won in the main category of best picture. European media discuss whether the political message behind the decision is hitting home and how Netflix and co. have changed the way we watch films.

Open/close all quotes
Mérce (HU) /

Only superficially critical of the status quo

Successful films such as Parasite, Joker or Us do not go far enough in their criticism of social hierarchy, says Mérce:

“Although all three films reflect the harmful and dehumanising consequences of social inequalities, the exploitation and mechanisms of reproduction of these inequalities lie beyond the horizon of the filmmakers. The inequalities and class relations that are at play in the background of the stories are simply given in these productions. ... They can - as the films warn us - lead to anarchy if they are not properly dealt with. ... But they themselves cannot be the object of criticism. So although these films may appear to make the case for a radical egalitarian programme, in reality they reproduce the ideology of the immutability and indisputability of the status quo.”

Kathimerini (GR) /

A vain attempt at openness

Kathimerini also sees the Academy's decision as politically motivated but lacking any impact on the overall situation in the US:

“The simple - and widely accepted - explanation is that the ruling circles in America's cultural heavy industry have picked up on Parasite's anti-capitalist message and are spreading it across the US. ... Nevertheless, what drives America's artistic elite remains invisible in the country's hinterland. Hollywood is closer to Seoul's intellectuals than it is to Kansas. And New York is closer to Berlin than it is to Alabama. American culture, which is opening up to foreign works irrespective of their creators' skin colour or language, is suffering its defeat in elections. As a civilisation, its relatives are elsewhere. Its homeland, meanwhile, is preparing to defeat it once again in a few months' time.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

The Irishman only works in the cinema

The Netflix film The Irishman, which went into the race as favourite, came out surprisingly empty-handed. NRC Handelsblad sees the media company as the big loser:

“Netflix reduces the friction between viewers and film. A visit to the cinema entails effort, costs, annoyances. Cycling in the rain. Buying tickets - damn, they're sold out! Giggling, popcorn-munching neighbours. ... Nope, Netflix is the better option. Available always and everywhere. Fancy a cup of tea? Just pause the film. Too heavy going? Choose another. But such convenience quickly turns against masterpieces like The Irishman. They require attention, patience, an accumulation of impressions. The reward is a unique experience. ... The Irishman is ill-suited to the Netflix 'format'.”

Wedomosti (RU) /

World of cinema finally going international

The win was very much deserved, Vedomosti says:

“Parasite is a very good, funny, sarcastic, at times touching and clever film. A few other genres were added to the comedy - and Bong mixes them with the skill of a magician. Korean cinema, which already conquered Europe at the beginning of the noughties and is now finally garnering recognition in America, should not just be celebrated in Korea today, but everywhere, including Russia. After all, doesn't this mean we can also win one of the main Oscars now? ... The English language no longer has a monopoly. And coincidentally, the Oscar category 'Best Foreign Language Film' was renamed 'Best International Feature Film' this year - so it's no longer foreign, but international.”

Spiegel Online (DE) /

A signal against Trump's isolationism

The Academy was not guided by nostalgia this time, Der Spiegel rejoices:

“Like last year it could have crowned the historical feel-good movie, in a kind of perverse analogy to Donald Trump's 'Make America Great Again' narrative, which ultimately only dreams the romantic fiction of a better past. But the Academy members, who after a recent opening up to more diversity and internationality include more women, African-Americans, Hispanics and filmmakers from all over the world, opted for a compelling contemporary narrative from South Korea - and thus for the cultural diversity and global multilateralism which the US President so vehemently rejects. The victory of Parasite is also a signal against the isolationism practised by Trump and his supporters.”