Seeing Bong Joon-ho’s work makes one believe time and again that the art of film excellence has not yet disappeared. South Korean director, known for The Host, Okja and Snowpiercer, gifted the film goers with yet another sublime production of his this year: Parasite; a perverse, comical, contemporary yet daunting film that won the Palme d’Or race at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival and became South Korean entry for the 2020 Academy Awards.
Photo © CJ Entertainment
Parasite depicts the stories of two families; first, there is the slightly dysfunctional family of Kim Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho) and his wife Chung-sook (Jang Hye-jin) who reside in a basement-dwelling, in a shady neighbourhood, with their son Ki-woo (Choi Woo-sik) and daughter Ki-jung (Park So-dam). While living in a cramped flat where dust, damp and lack of internet are daily struggles, the family creates a constant little circle of chaos for themselves. They earn a meager living by folding pizza boxes and their day-to-day issues make it harder for them to change their pitiful existence.
One day, the fates of fortune smile upon the family when Ki-woo’s friend Min (Park Seo-joon) offers Ki-woo a lucrative job – becoming a private tutor to a rich student, Park Da-hye. With his sister’s help, Ki-woo forges a few University diplomas and references and sets out on his little mission to the Park mansion. The Park family’s breadwinner is Dong-ik (Lee Sun-kyun), a successful businessman whose wife Yeon-kyo (Cho Yeo-jeong) is a stay-at-home mum who happily runs their household. They have two children; a teenage daughter Da-hye (Hyun Seung-min) and a mischievous son Da-song (Jung Hyun-joon). There is one more person in the household: the one who really watches over the Park family: their omniscient housekeeper Moon-gwang (Lee Jung-eun). Ki-woo swiftly gains the trust of the family and manages to arrange work for his sister as Da-song’s fake therapist; in addition, Ki-taek tricks the family into becoming their chauffeur. Slowly, the Kim family become human parasites to the Parks and without an ounce of remorse, the Kims commence living off of the wealth of the Park family. At first, it seems that this is a plan without a flaw, but in today’s society, there are many more layers to social existence…
Photo © CJ Entertainment
Bong Joon-ho has an extraordinary talent when it comes to storytelling. The film’s outlook is cleverly composed out of sharp social commentary based on the actual struggles of South Korean citizens, including economic exclusion and vast inequalities between the rich and the poor. Stripped from their ancient values in a society now driven by consumerism and selfishness, there can hardly be a peaceful life awaiting the likes of the Kim family. Even carrying this weight, Bong Jon-hoo’s narrative is solid; he knows how to maintain it throughout the film and makes the story both approachable and enchanting to the audience. On top of that, he skillfully juggles dark comedy with elements of thriller and moments of horror. With a large cast of characters, Bong managed to create a spectacular kaleidoscope of personas, brought forth by an impressive delivery from the cast. At times, an interesting use of opera music adds the necessary feeling of monumentality to otherwise ordinary scenes, captured with rawness by Hong Kyung-pyo’s camera and skillfully edited by Yang Jin-mo.
Parasite raises many unpleasant issues about the constructs of the current world, leaving a viewer with a sour aftertaste, full of doubts whether things can be fixed at all. It also takes its viewers on a roller coaster ride that is as fresh as it packs a punch, pouring it into concrete that Bong Joon-ho’s newest project is of the most powerful films of 2019.
Written by Maggie Gogler
Edited by Sanja Struna
The review was first posted on View of the Arts on September 3rd, 2019.