Parasite (2019) – Bong Joon Ho

Parasite, the winner of four Oscars in 2020, including Best Picture and Best Director, is an astounding film. Director Bong Joon Ho, alongside Han Jin Won, wrote the screenplay, and they managed to create an innovative and unique concept about family, wealth and society, set in South Korea. Parasite won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, and the film’s witty and charismatic characters make this film all the more engrossing. 

The premise is that the Kim family, one by one, manage to scheme their way into providing services for the wealthy, but gullible Park family. The competence of the Kim family is exceptional and the way they are presented as a close family unit makes their journey throughout the film all the more enjoyable to watch. It is not only the Kim family dynamic that makes the film, but also the tonal shifts between humour and darker, twisted moments. The cinematography by Kyung-pyo Hong, is also well-crafted and there are a range of different techniques used to build suspense.

Bong Joon Ho also wrote and directed Snowpiercer in 2013, (with Chris Evans playing the lead Curtis), which similarly touches on class struggles, albeit in a dystopian context. In Snowpiercer all that remains of humanity is on-board a train in which class progressively deteriorates the further down the train you go. The class divide is palpable here, just as in Parasite. In Parasite there are more subtleties to the class divide and it seems that the Kim and Park families get along, but what stirs under the surface is an ominous tension that builds and rises to a destructive crescendo. The shift in ambition between the two families is staggering. Yeon Kyo (played by Yeo-jeong Jo) is shown to be complacent and docile in her role of housewife, while the Kim family have an appetite and an energy to initiate change in their lives. 

Watching a translation of the film, the intricacies of the Korean language I’m sure are lost, but I found that the translation was successful in showing the subtle hints of a growing strain between the two families. Whilst the Park family are only ‘nice because they’re rich’, they are not villainous. All of the characters in the film have strong motivations behind their actions and thus the escalation that occurs in the film feels justified, as well as a fitting payoff.

Setting is everything in Parasite. The Park family house is where a majority of the film is set, and locations are used to symbolise class, especially in terms of stairs, upstairs/downstairs and abandoned and forgotten spaces. The gorgeous spacious Park family home, with pristine large windows that overlook their lush and large garden, is the polar opposite of the cramped basement living situation of the Kim’s, in which they oversee drunkards peeing in the street. It is these dichotomies that are at the foundation of Parasite, as they highlight the differing outlook of the families. 

Parasite is an enthralling watch, with important social commentary and twists and turns that keep you on the edge of your seat. The acting is excellent and both families are comprised of characters that you want to see more of. I found the ending to be bittersweet and altogether Parasite is an impactful film that lingers long after you have seen it. 

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