This new version of Parasite is still excellent, but the lack of colour does not make a huge difference to the average film-goer, as well as introducing its own issues.
In the vein of 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road, and 2017’s Logan, Parasite has recently received the black and white treatment. Bong Joon-ho’s 2019 dark comedy thriller bagged the best picture Oscar at the 2020 awards, and has earned a great deal of acclaim from critics. This latest black and white version is perhaps a way to reinvigorate this success, but does it really cast the film in a new light?
This lack of colour serves the film in numerous ways throughout its running time. The Kim family’s basement slum only feels more depressing and destitute while the Park’s family’s lavish two-storey house looks far more cold and unfriendly than it would in colour. In this sense it serves the themes of the film but conversely, it is hard to see that colour would not necessarily be able to achieve the same feel with more nuance. Some areas do feel more powerful however, black and white in and of itself does imbue a darker feeling, and it heightens the tension throughout the film. One shot of the Kim’s son walking through a dark concrete hallway in black and white was oddly striking and lent the film a certain Hitchcockian feel. As well as this, a certain water-logged scene towards the end holds a great deal of tension I’m unsure would be captured as well in colour.
The film itself in all other elements is still excellent as Parasite tells a deeply involving story about class in South Korea involving two contrasting families, the tale as a whole providing enough nuance and involvement to keep you thinking hours after watching. The camera work is consistently slick, and the film manages to balance both comedy and drama in a way that is often difficult. The lack of colour very rarely actively detracts from the quality of the film, the only issue is that the subtitles in the first half of the film can sometimes be hard to read, but it is an unavoidable issue. Perhaps the only solution for this is to change their colour, but in a black and white film this would completely ruin the intended theme.
Fundamentally, the question could be if Parasite’s black and white release is essentially an excuse to re-release the film? Perhaps, but the wider question is, does it matter? For those who have seen the original Parasite in colour, there is no reason not to rewatch this labyrinthine tale again in monochrome. It might not totally change the film, but it certainly adds an extra layer of mystique. Parasite strangely suits this new colour palette, in a way perhaps Logan and Mad Max: Fury Road did not. Overall this version is likely more of a side-grade to many, and rather than a direct downgrade or upgrade, I enjoy what black and white adds to the film despite some small issues being created by this change.
The black and white version of Parasite is available from the 24th July on demand