Parasite is a dark comedy/thriller about the disparity between socio-economic classes and the lack of care given to the lower levels of society as they are not met with any opportunities to integrate into the more privileged classes. It is Bong Joon Ho’s most recent feature, and considering his impressive repertoire, it is natural to come into this with high expectations. However, this film proceeds to blow all those expectations out of the water. Bong knows exactly what he wants out of this film, and he communicates its message perfectly. The actors also play a key role in giving it an intricate layer of depth as they deliver phenomenal performances with their characters. This coupled with beautiful cinematography, smooth editing, and perfect music choice creates a mesmerising story that can speak to every individual.
The film introduces the poor Kim family and their attempts at integrating into society through working for the wealthy Park family. This unfortunately backfires as they are not able to get rid of the smell of poverty. This is established when Mr. Park and his wife try to sleep and he notices a distinct odor that reeks of the poor. Not being able to get rid of their smell signifies that the Kims are not able to rise above their unfortunate circumstances. The daughter of the Kim family admits defeat by sitting on a toilet smoking a cigarette in a room in her house while her home is being flooded. The son admits defeat by letting go of the rock sculpture that his friend (who offered him the job to work for the Park family) generously gave him. The rock sculpture represented wealth and fortune, but after he ironically gets beaten over the head with that metaphorical rock during the climax, he realises that his dream of being rich was only a dream. Last but not leat, the father, in the end, admits defeat when he traps himself in the basement of the Park family’s home.
Parasite isn’t just tragic however, it is suspenseful. Bong knows how to deliver suspense, and the suspense he delivers is exceptional. During the second half of the film, the Kim family is caught by the former workers of the Park family. At that point, all sense of comedy that initially surrounded the film is replaced with a tense dread that only grows bigger. It’s a dread that never lets up until the violent climax.
The moments where the film does get humorous though makes for some pretty memorable scenes, most apparent with the Jessica Jingle.
The evocative story is only even further enhanced through actors that perfectly play their characters. The Park family is made to be the victims as they have not done anything as malicious as the Kim family, yet their apparent disregard for people in the lower classes shows them as naive and not necessarily likable. The Kim family is a clever group of characters that may have done some pretty bad things, but they were entertaining nonetheless. It is clear that through the son and the daughter that the poor are fully capable of living in the upper levels of society. It is the lack of opportunities that keep them where they are at, which limits potential talent from fully sprouting. I could not personally bring myself to dislike the Kim family despite how manipulative they were. Their downfall had the effect of bringing my heart down and making me feel bad for them; their plan had failed. But it’s interesting because I wasn’t exactly rooting for them either. In the back of my mind, I was hoping they would be able to live happily, but thinking more realistically, they would not have been able to bring themselves up from the hole they dug themselves into. In the end, every single character was a parasite, each group latching onto each other like how a parasite latches onto its host until death.
Bong Joon Ho gives the world a blunt commentary on the circumstances surrounding the privileged and the poverty-stricken. Watching something like Parasite is a once in a lifetime experience. It is a deeply moving film that latches onto the audience’s attention and never lets go. All the audience can do is watch as the events unfold and conclude. It’s a depressing but realistic take on an issue that continues to pervade not just in South Korea but in the entire world; a seemingly simple idea that is executed beautifully. Parasite is just that good.