Starring Kang-ho Song, Sun-kyun Lee, Yeo-jeong Jo, Woo-sik Choi, Hye-jin Jang, So-dam Park
Written by Bong Joon-ho, Jin Won Han
Directed by Bong Joon-ho
Warning: Spoilers Ahead
There’s an elegance that graces every frame of Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite (aka Gisaengchung). From the stunning home of Mr. Park (Sun-kyun) to the slums where the Kim family resides, every shot is deliberate and masterfully constructed, resulting in a movie that is a visual wonder. Everything else about the film is just as expertly done, the story and the acting all top-notch. Joon-ho’s film blends a multitude of genres, collecting them all under the umbrella of “dark comedy”, which this film certainly encapsulates. Undeniably funny and sometimes shockingly emotional, Joon-ho’s film is about class disparity and the lengths people will go through in order to survive.
Parasite follows the Kim family, with father Ki-taek (Kang-ho), mother Choong-sook (Hye-jin), son Ki-woo (Woo-shik), and daughter Ki-jung (So-dam). They live in squalor in the basement apartment of a slum, ripping off WiFi and leaving their window open during fumigation for free insect removal. That is, when people aren’t too busy pissing outside for all to see. When Ki-woo gets the opportunity to tutor the daughter of a rich Park family, he sees an opportunity to sneak his family into various roles the Parks require, such as Ki-jung becoming the son’s art tutor, Ki-taek becoming the family driver, and Choong-sook taking over the role of housekeeper. However, these roles are all occupied, so they need to be ousted before they can be refilled. Meanwhile, the Parks are living a life of carefree ignorance and indulgence, not a single care or concern that their trusted staff are not so trustworthy anymore.
The major twist of the film comes when it’s revealed that the previous housekeeper’s husband has been living for years in a secret bunker that is only accessible through the basement. He bears no ill-will to Mr. Park, the lord at the top of the tower, using a series of buttons connected to lights in the house to offer morse code messages professing his love and admiration of the oligarch.
Parasite is a scathing commentary on the manipulations of the rich to convince lower classes that they are each other’s enemies. While the “plebs” bicker and fight, both desperate to retain ownership of their own basements, the Parks carry on with nary a worry in the world, their mockery of those beneath them used as literal foreplay.
And yet, there are no easy determinations as to the guilt of any one party. The Kims, undoubtedly charming and sympathetic, are most certainly made up of anti-heroes while the Parks aren’t overtly evil. There is a nuance to each of these families, giving the film a sense of real humanity. Ki-taek admires the photoshopped records Ki-junk is able to manufacture, wondering if Oxford offers a course in forgery. Mr. Park steps away from work during a busy time to take his family camping. Each is neither good nor evil. They are simply human.
Bolstered by beautiful cinematography by Burning‘s Hong Kyung-po and elevated by Jung Jae-il’s wonderful score, Parasite is a tour de force, a film that arrests viewers and never gives direct answers. At well over two hours long, time flies unfelt as Joon-ho deftly weaves a fascinating, enraging, captivating tale.
Parasite is Bong Joon-ho at his very best. A masterpiece of storytelling and a captivating dissection of class struggles, it is cinema at its finest.