“It’s all so metaphorical.” (Choi Woo Sik, Parasite)
Written and directed by Bong Joon-ho (Snowpiercer), Parasite introduces the viewer to the Kim clan, a destitute Korean family struggling to make ends meet. When a young friend encourages the son, Ki-woo (Choi Woo Sik), to apply as an English tutor to the Parks, a wealthy family who live in an extravagant mansion, he believes that he may have found an answer to their financial problems. As the lies and deceptions increase, the Kims and Parks become intertwined in a symbiotic relationship that will threaten all of their lives.
With the Oscars fast-approaching, Parasite has slowly crept its way into awards contention, continuously winning audiences over with its unique storytelling and shocking finale. Featuring Joon-ho’s signature brand of humour and horror, Parasite also has a social conscience that also challenges perceptions and stereotypes regarding the boundaries of social status. As a result, the film is truly one of the year’s most engaging and interesting scripts, worthy of all the accolades that have come its way.
Essential to Parasite is the concept of lines and boundaries. As Mr. Park speaks repeatedly about his demand that his staff do not ‘cross the line’, their luxurious home is designed with clean edges, squares and sections to indicate the proper location for both items and people. Put simply, the Parks live in a world of control and separation. Their highest priority remains maintaining the quality of life that they have achieved. Meanwhile, however, the Kim family live in a world where boundaries are blurred as they constantly reach upwards. Open windows let in everything from water to fumes. They scurry feverishly until they find Wi-Fi signals, often in the strangest of areas of their basement apartment. In fact, even their bathroom appears virtually upside down as the toilet approaches the ceiling. Struggling to pay their bills, they find themselves constrained by the social boundaries that have been laid in place by families such as the Parks. (Incidentally, this notion of exclusion is also beautifully represented by the Park family home’s many walls and windows, suggesting that they both want to be left alone and admired at the same time.)
Nevertheless, despite the social division between them, there seems to remain a symbiotic dependency between the two families. While the Kims slowly gain access to the Park residence, they could clearly be viewed as the titular ‘parasites’, leaching off of their benefactors’ food and finance. Though, with that in mind, the Parks too find themselves relying on their servants to perform the most menial of tasks, suggesting that they too find themselves in a similar role. In Parasite, there remains an interconnectedness between class cultures that those in the upper class either remain unaware of (or refuse to acknowledge). For example, the film recognizes the self-imposed blindness of the wealthy as they treat the disenfranchised as less than human. Broken and ignored, the Kims represent an entire section of the population that the Park family choose not to see. Blinded by forged documents and business cards, the Parks are only willing to acknowledge the worth of the Kims based upon their credentials, as opposed to their value as human beings. As such, Parasite plays out like a cautionary tale, it also serves as a call for justice for the oppressed as well.
Special features on the Blu-ray disc are sparse, especially when one considers how immensely popular the film has become. However, the sole feature—an interview with director Bong Joon-ho—is especially good and delves into many of the film’s key themes and ideas. (Though, if extras are what you’re looking for, you may want to wait to see if Criterion eventually offers a release in their collection.)
Sharply-written, visually stunning and shocking at times, Parasite is an experience well worth investing your time into. Through his distinct brand of story-telling, Joon-ho embeds his tale of interconnectedness and social injustice with levity that somehow enhances the moments of surprise when they arrive.
Parasite has moved in onto Blu-Ray and Digital now.