Bong Joon-Ho’s “Parasite” can be considered one of the most remarkable films of 2019. All components of the production combine harmoniously to generate a visual representation of classism in South Korea. The cinematography alone highlights the perspectives of the lower classes on the rich, while the powerful score manipulates emotions with all the skill of a professional concertist. The writing wonderfully juxtaposes the lifestyles of the two groups, and the script comes to life through masterful performances given by actors such as Woo-sik Choi and So-dam Park. Together, these elements form an outstanding work of art.
The success of this movie is unprecedented, earning over $235 million at the box office as well as several Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. The depth and beauty encapsulated in this film can be difficult to articulate, but the one word that indisputably applies is “masterpiece.”
Obligatory brief summary for those who have not yet seen “Parasite”: The Ki-woo family, who fill the position of our protagonists, live in poverty. The Ki-woo’s socio-economic status in South Korean society is reflected in their home: a small semi-basement of a stacked-sardine-tins building, with a view of drunkards relieving oral and urinary waste onto the street. Kim Ki-woo is the film’s main character and narrator. He’s a young adult (estimated 18-20 years old) who lives with his mother, father and sister. A friend offers him a tutoring position in the Park household, a wealthy family, which Kim accepts. This job provides Kim an income, but also opportunities for his family to relieve their financial struggles. I will say no more concerning the plot for the same respect “Parasite’s” trailers provided: this story is one best experienced when as little information as possible is known.
“Parasite’s” primary theme and critique is of classism in South Korea. The plot observes the interaction between one family struggling to survive and one family existing in blissful ignorance of their privilege. The juxtaposition between the two families and the groups, worlds and lives they represent, is prevalent in every aspect of the film. “Parasite” utilizes all aspects of its content to explore and explain the nuances of its characters, and by extension the types of people they represent.
The grandest example of this is “Parasite’s” focal location: the Park house. This architectural spectacle leisurely lays above the majority of the surrounding geography, on an inclining private road, in a high-end neighbourhood. The elevation of their home is representative of the Park’s status and their isolation from the reality that is most people’s daily experiences. Scenes of the Ki-woo’s arduous travels from their home to the Park residence serve to effectively communicate distance: physical distance between two communities, but also the distance between classes on opposing sides of the economic spectrum. By taking the time to show the trek necessary to access the Park residence, Joon-Ho not only gifts his audience stunning visual storytelling, but communicates how removed and isolated wealthy communities are from the majority of populations. This is also indicative of how painful, exhausting and ultimately impossible the quest to obtain the Park’s lifestyle is. I strongly recommend The Take YouTube essay “Parasite, Ending Explained – Stairway to Nowhere” for more on this point and for a more thorough analysis of this hauntingly beautiful film.
The Park’s house is synched with a belt of windows. This endows the establishment with a sense of transparentness; the stylish, minimalistic decor on display entices any perusing eyes to admire. But like a belt, it holds in secret parts not intended to be seen, parts that the wearer wishes to conceal from acknowledgeable existence. This symbolizes how rich individuals often give the appearance of being financially honest (concerning their own spending and their knowledge of others’ situations) but their unawareness of the hidden basement shows their ignorance of the foundation on which supports their home, and by extension, their lives.
The title itself interrogates the audience, teasing out their opinion of who they consider parasitic. Is it the poor Ki-Woo family, who remove members of their own socio-economic status from employed positions to acquire their financial and social resources themselves? Is it the Park family, who live in an ignorance built on the emotional, physical and financial suffering of those below them? Is it a society which enables and rewards a select few for amassing resources, while punishing those whose resources are robbed and, subsequently, nonexistent? Am I parasitic? Are you?