Winner of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival this year. Korean director Bong Joon-Ho‘s new movie, Parasite is as close to cinematic perfection as I have seen during 2019. Creating a film that ebbs and flows with deliciously dark humour, shocks and drama in equal measure. While taking the audience on a rollercoaster ride of twists and turns.
In a similar vein to the exceptional Korean mystery/thriller Burning at the start of the year. Bong Joon Ho’s seventh feature, echoes the narrative style of Hitchcock with its sublime deep dive into the human psyche. But equally couples this with a film that rides rough shot over traditional genre boundaries. While playing with social themes in a nuanced and subversive way. Ultimately creating a film that reflects illusion, desire and reality. With characters who subvert the usual cliches of film in exploring wealth, social divide and greed.
The Kim family live in a squalid basement flat, eagerly searching for opportunities to scrape together a little more cash. The family is led by Kim Ki-taek (Kang-ho Song) an unemployed driver and his wife Kim Chung-sook. While their college aged children Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik) and Ki-jung (Park So-dam) help support the family income by folding pizza boxes.
However, on meeting with a college friend, an unexpected opportunity falls into young Ki-woo’s lap. As his friend suggests he should become an English tutor to the young daughter of the extremely wealthy Park family. And after some painstaking forgery of university qualifications, Ki-Woo achieves the role. Opening a door to the affluence of Park family life.
Once settled into his new job, Ki-woo quickly latches onto the potential to secure work in the household for the rest of his family. Manipulating the wealthy Parks into sacking current employees with the help of his sister Ki-jung. Until the whole Kim family is securely in place, with not one of the Park family realising their new employees are all related. However, the deception can only last so long, before secrets are outed. And the wealth, greed and hidden depths of the Park family home reveal themselves in a web of destruction.
Parasite gloriously dissects the divides between social classes, while never allowing the audience to take sides. Or equally, feel empathy to one family over the other. Playing with a sense of illusion and fantasy in the ability of both social classes to co-exit in the same reality. While equally exploring the interface between employee and employer, and lives that sit at either end of the employment spectrum. Neither end fully understanding the life of the other, while co-existing in a marriage of convenience.
However, its the masterful use of humour laced with nerve shredding tension that brings the film to life. As the lives of the Kim family slowly spiral out of control under a blanket of manipulation and lies. While the Park family feed on their ability to use those less fortunate in furthering their own wealth and position.
With sensational performances, cinematography and direction. Parasite offers one of the finest cinematic experiences of the year. One that ripples with creativity and artistry, while equally providing a tour de force in storytelling. All the time playing with our inner thoughts on the nature of the word ‘parasite’. Asking us all how the definition relates to the divides of a society built on wealth and greed. And who the real parasites of the narrative are.
An organism that lives in or on an organism of another species (its host) and benefits by deriving nutrients at the other’s expense.
And whatever final conclusions you may draw. This is a film that will continue to eat away at your thoughts long after you leave the cinema. Its beauty and clockwork like perfection demanding a second viewing. And from my perspective if Parasite and Burning offer a glimpse of the sheer creative forces now leading Korean cinema. Then I cannot wait to see what comes next.
Director: Bong Joon Ho