Parasite, from acclaimed director Bong Joon-ho, is an excellent expression of artistic critique of the capitalist society we happen to live in. Unlike some other films which seek to do the same by merely stating what society is (looking at you, Joker and the frenzy of terrible takes and opinions that occurred following your release) Bong’s film attempts to deconstruct the lengths at which some go to maintain prestige and not become one of the many losers of the system. I would recommend seeing the film totally blind for the best experience of what it is about – so if you don’t want to know more, stop reading now!
The plot follows the South Korean Kim family who are living in poverty when we meet them in the opening scene. Bong does an excellent job at capturing the tightness of the space that four members of the property occupy. However, before you start to feel sorry for them the son, Kim-woo, comes across an opportunity when his friend offers him to take over his tutoring position at a rich family’s house. He fakes his credentials and gets the job mentoring the daughter of the upper class Park family who employ various staff and see money as no barrier to getting what they want. Not that they are bad people, per se, (the film makes a point of debating whether they are nice because of their money or not) but their extravagant lifestyle leads Kim-woo to develop a scheme to get the rest of his family fraudulently hired to serve this elite family. Yet, as is the case with these schemes, it cannot last forever.
For me, the standout performance has to be of Song Kang-ho playing the patriarch of the Kim family whose history we get glimpses of in the opening scene. However, this isn’t necessary because Song does an excellent job at portraying a man who has not had the greatest luck in life and has all but given up. Despite this, it is not as if the character is sympathetic and Bong does truly magnificent work when dealing with some morally grey moments of the film. Park So-dam is another excellent example of the talent of the cast. Playing the daughter of the Kim family, Ki-jung, there’s something fantastic about her youthful confidence in committing the crimes on screen as well as her comedic timing. The film is technically a black comedy after all.
Overall, I can see why Parasite was deserving of the Academy Award. Whilst certainly an engaging film in terms of cinematography, Bong’s film delights and terrifies with his clever use of set design, music, and a thrilling narrative. The film’s message resonates with me now; I write this a day after viewing it and I know it will warrant a rewatch at some point.
Parasite is in cinemas now.
Featured image courtesy of NEON / CJ Entertainment.