At first you will have loads of fun. Then you will become terrified.
In this year’s Palme d’Or winner Parasite South Korean director Bong Joon-Ho masterfully shifts in between genres, never loosening the intrigue and tension. When class difference portrayal has reached its highest point, this dark comedy quickly turns into a gruesomely sadistic game of survival. Needless to say, the climax is majestic.
The story revolves around two families – one poor and one extremely rich. Both have the same dynamic, consisting of a daughter, a son and both parents.
The poor Kim Ki-taek’s family, which is fully unemployed, miserably screws up it’s latest gig on folding pizza boxes (mostly because of their sloppy “origami skills”). Their luck turns around when Ki-woo, son of Ki-taek’s family, gets a job as the Da-hye English tutor for the rich Park family’s daughter. Ki-woo starts working and becomes a frequent guest at the fancy mansion of the Parks. Soon enough Ki-woo seizes an opportunity to employ his whole family. They all work under one roof and attend to rich family mother’s every whim, meanwhile acting as strangers and co-workers between each other.
Director Bong Joon-Ho doesn’t take sides and avoids class characteristic clichés by portraying the poor family as the noble and pure ones whereas the rich family is greedy and spoiled. No! Both sides are equally likable and equally unpleasant at the same time. Which one is the real parasite? The rich family or the poor one? Let’s remember that parasites (either bugs, fungus etc.) do not inhabit just any given place, they “lay their eggs” in a hospitable environment. In the film the con-artist family feeds on the naivety of their richer counterparts, concluding that “Only rich people can afford to be kind.” They take advantage of their trust to form a better life for themselves. Meanwhile, the Park family are like any rich family. Generally, in a capitalist society we can assume that rich always get richer on the account of poor remaining poor. Still, little by little Ki-taek’s family gets intoxicated by the smell of money.
The opportunists’ credibility is put at risk when the rich little boy starts to distinguish that all these new servants smell the same. This particular odour comes from the damp environment in the basement apartment they live in and the poor clothing they wear. Little by little, each member of the rich family starts to notice this smell and show their disgust and pity.
Bong Joon-Ho masterfully shifts between comedy, thriller and horror, giving great attendance towards the cinematographically well-polished details. Social commentary in this film is quite harsh. In Parasite you can stare right into the gini gap’s face and see that the caste system is still very much alive and the servant’s class is not a thing of the past.
Bong Joon-Ho’s films convey futuristic, political, social and environmental messages. He has quickly become one of Cannes darlings and his previous films (Okja (2017), Snowpiercer (2013) Mother (2009), Tokyo (2008), The Host (2006) ) are highly praised by the critics and movie going public.