This isn’t the first time Bong Joon Ho has caused a big stir, his 2017 Okja was famously booed at the Cannes Film Festival of that year because it was distributed by Netflix. Fresh off its phenomenal success at the Academy Awards, Parasite may be the first time, in a long time, that an international film has garnered such a vast reputation to mainstream audiences. Even before the film’s reputation had skyrocketed, it was always on my radar to watch at some point because of director Bong Joon Ho’s previous work which I found to be interesting. There’s a long-standing assumption that America has monopolized cinema because of the amount of American made films we consume which is just not true. After watching Parasite, I honestly believe, with all my heart, that this is the film that will breach that assumption because Parasite is miraculously brilliant in almost every aspect.
Parasite will play and challenge you on a moral level. This becomes very clear when we are introduced to the Kim family who are on the poverty line in South Korea. We follow this family as they con their way into employment by the wealthy Park family who don’t suspect that they’re all related.
From that description I can feel your judgment because you think you know victim and victimizer, however, that line becomes a little blurry when Bong Joon Ho injects class divide into the narrative. You see the kind of poverty the Kim family is in like letting toxic fumes from exterminators into their small basement apartment to get rid of stink bugs to having low paid jobs making pizza boxes. But the real difference in the class divide comes during how each family deals with a rainstorm which I won’t spoil here. How you perceive the Kim family is conflicted, you know what this family is doing is very wrong but at the same time, you don’t want them the get found out because of how far they’ve fallen.
It’s so great to see a film and be witness to great characters. Parasite doesn’t leave any character in the dust, at least the ones that matter to the story in the long term. Both families are remarkable different not just in lifestyle but also in how their collective personalities dictate their actions. The Kim’s are more like scavengers, so the family is cunning which is evident in the daughter’s ability to create forged documents. Whereas the Parks’ are more laid back, say for the mother Yeon-kyo (Cho Yeo-jeong) who is constantly anxious about her children, and gullible because of their wealth. You’re watching a near blend of social realist satire until at some point in the film it starts to become very serious and when that change clicks, it becomes truly masterful and you realize the genius of the story.
Furthermore, on the satire elements of the film, Parasite is a very funny film. The humour derives from how the Kim family manages to gain entry to the rich Park family life by scheming how they can get the people currently employed by the Parks’ sacked so they can take over their jobs. One such person is the long-time housekeeper Moon-gwang (Lee Jung Eun) through the use of peaches (I’ll leave it to your imagination). You get a heist film vibe from these sequences, but I reckon even heist films couldn’t match the simplistic but clever element of this film.
Once you’ve passed the satire and revel in the more serious sequences, the film will leave you lost for words. Bong Joon Ho puts you and the characters in situations where you can’t imagine how the Kim’s are going to get out with no consequences. If you want a great example of Hitchcockian suspense at work, Parasite is your film.
It hurts when I have to uphold my policy of finding the weak point of a film I felt was practically perfect, but if I uphold Parasite to one thing is that I kind of hoped that the film could have introduced the conflict a little earlier. You see this family’s plan goes really well, maybe a bit too well and you’re wondering whether something, anything will go wrong. When that moment hits, however, it really does hit.
Immediately after Parasite was over, I was left with a giddy attitude, the kind of giddy attitude where you know you’ve seen something astonishingly brilliant. There are very few films I’ve seen, classic and/or modern, that have managed to make me feel so overwhelmed with emotion and the few that have turned out to become classics. Parasite marks a momentous moment in cinema where hopefully that blockade between audiences and international films is demolished and I really, really hope this is the start of world cinema becoming a common occurrence in our cinemas.
Final Result: 10/10 – Masterpiece
Have you seen Parasite? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: Sonic the Hedgehog