Joon Ho Bong’s “Parasite” intermingles many genres, and the result is a pawky, rich in social context and ridiculously entertaining film. It’s an all-in-one cinematic experience at its absolute best.
A parasite is an organism that lives off another one, which eventually causes its host to be slowly drained out of vitality.
It is seemingly quite clear who the titular parasites are in Joon Ho Bong’s “Parasite”. The four horsemen of the Apocalypse, or simply said – the Kims family – are deadbeats, aimlessly trying to live from day to day. Bong introduces the no-hopers when they hold smartphones close to the ceiling of their basement-level flat, trying to steal a few megabytes from their neighbor’s Wi-Fi.
Desperate to climb up the social and wealth ladder, the Kims finally see a light at the end of the tunnel. Like in some kind of a fairy tale, Bong brings in a character that puts everything in motion, and just as if a magic wand twirled in a Harry Potter spin-off, things change dramatically with its touch. Ki-woo, a son to the Kim family’s head Ki-taek, meets with a friend who lays out a rather irrecusable offer – a job as a tutor of a ridiculously rich kid, daughter of the wealthy Parks. Upon accepting the new role, Ki-woo devises a plan to squeeze much more than the tutoring salary. Soon, Ki-woo’s sister joins the scheme as an “art therapist” for the problematic son of the Parks.
Since the Korean director asked not to reveal the plot details, take it for granted that from that point, the plot goes only more bonkers.
Bong’s plot balances humor and absurdity impeccably, but at the same time, it progressively amps up tension. The Kims’ scheme goes in truly unexpected directions, and it’s safe to say that there is not a single false note in the melody that Bong plays. Everything’s in order, each dot leads to another. It doesn’t matter what genre is poured into the drink, because adding new ingredients to the mix only makes this drink better and stronger.
Bong skilfully proves that just like real-life mystery of parasitic organisms, Kims are masters at what they do. They prey on the lovingly naïve Mrs. Park, crawling inside her mind and planting seed after seed, all within their illustrious plan. That charade is gorgeously played out by the entire cast. Each character knows its place, and has their own moments to shine. If you ever considered “Ocean’s Eleven” or “Magic Shit” as movies about mastermind con artists, leave it to “Parasite” and its fantastic cast to change your mind.
However, Palme d’Or wasn’t awarded to “Parasite” solely due to its remarkable lightness in switching gears between thriller, horror, comedy, and drama (and probably a few more).
Once Bong takes to this art of lies like a duck to water, “Parasite” digs new corridors and follows new, surprising paths. But what’s really to marvel at is the way Parks and Kims encapsulate the Korean society, with its class-based division and little nuances that dictate certain behaviors and mechanisms whirring between them. Observing the friction of the two families colliding paints a landscape of modern Korea – tech-savvy, ambitious and wildly dispersed in between the classes.
This points to the rich canvas of symbols that build context of “Parasite”. In one scene, the Kims ran down the stairs in the city, leading all the way to their down-level cockroach den. Soaking wet, they dash to find a shelter from the cloudburst. And as Ki-woo often says in the film, “it’s metaphorical” – a picture that even the urban plan of the city represents the class division that “Parasite” discusses. In such way Bong likes to attract attention to details – how the poor live in the times of wifi-everywhere, while the rich still “marxistically” prey on the less wealthy.
“Parasite” could – or even should be – called a true gem of today’s filmmaking industry. It stings like a wasp, it pushes to think, and it bonds tiny particles from multiple genres to form something of its own. Bong has a strong voice and it would be a crime not to hear it.
Dir. Joon Ho Bong
Hate Grade: 0.5/10