Cast: Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam.
Directed by Bong Joon-ho
Written by Bong Joon-ho and Han Jin-won
Themes of class have echoed throughout many of masterful director Bong Joon-ho’s earlier works, ringing through the very literal interpretation of division within ‘Snowpiercer,’ to the more complex relationship between employment and status within ‘Okja,’ and in the directors 2019 release, ‘Parasite,’ the attention towards such an idea becomes almost deafening.
Such is the nature of this film, every moment within the narrative is so integral to the overarching story that it becomes difficult to speak on many of the film’s specific moments without risk of spoilers, but I’ll do my best to articulate the brilliance of Parasite without giving anything away. The story follows that of Ki-Taek’s (Song Kang-Ho) family, who are all struggling with work until he’s offered employment as a tutor at the eccentrically-rich home of the Parks family. It is from this pivotal moment that the complexity and intricacies of the narrative thematically develop, and the events of the film build to scenes of comedy, conflict and tension in a brilliant manner.
On the surface, it may be easy to interpret such a synopsis as a simple representation of class division, but as a contemporary piece of art, Parasite applies the contextually modern surroundings of the extreme contrast between the super-rich and poor which has emerged within recent decades, not only in South Korea, but across the world, within the mise-en-scene of the film – from the architecturally beautiful Park family home, to the acceptance of pollution which riddles the lives of Ki-Taek’s family. It isn’t just this approach to socio-political ideologies which has been adapted for a modern audience by screenwriters Bong Joon-ho and Han Jin-won, but also the status of characters within such a divide. The wider audience of these screenings will empathise with that of Ki-Taek’s family’s experiences, as they are won over by the luxuries of wealth and become possessive through their envy. Socially, we are aligned with them, but morally there is a corruption within such support, as their actions are born out of a selfishness that further dishonours audience expectations of protagonists, which only becomes more prevalent as the narrative progresses. The contextually relevant complexities of Parasite’s themes is just one of many reasons why the film is truly brilliant.
Another element which attributes to Parasite’s excellence is found within the performances. The frequency at which relationships change as a result of narrative events is highly persistent, and yet the natural way in which each performer articulates their character feels completely effortless. In particular, Song Kang-ho’s portrayal of the father of the family is one of both excellent comedic and dramatic timing – often within close proximity. A frequent collaborator with Bong Joon-ho, Kang-ho has been described by the director as being capable of articulating even the most complex of emotions through his voice alone, and it’s within these intricate moments of character that Kang-ho, and the rest of the film’s performers excel.
There is so much that can be said for the intelligence that Bong Joon-ho applies to this film, whether that be found within the characteristic nature of the cinematography, or the perfectly paced rhythm of the editing, but to delve too deep into such areas of film form would be to risk spoilers, and more than anything, ‘Parasite’ is a film which everyone should experience with as little prior knowledge as possible. Though for some the film may be slightly harder to access than usual, that pricier film ticket or longer drive are entirely worth it when given the opportunity to watch a master filmmaker at work.