What do I say about a film about which so much has been said already? I’d like to try anyways, so here goes.
Two families in South Korea. The Parks are super rich, living in a grand mansion.The Kim family, on the other hand, are unemployed, living in poverty. So, this is a family that literally leads a life lower than the others, as in, they live in a rundown part of the city in a squalid basement. In a bid to survive, they con their way into the wealthy household. How they go about scamming the Parks’ family, squirming their way up their lofty world is superbly done. Funny as hell. The Parks don’t realize their employees are, in fact, from the same family. Such is their gullibility. Or is it the Kim family’s craftiness?
Anyway, as events unfold, their parallel worlds collide and their lives are changed forever. This is the premise of the movie. Or seems to be. But is it really so?
Bong Joon Ho undoubtedly is a mastercraftsman. This is a filmmaker who knows exactly what he’s doing and why he’s doing it. His brilliant use of very specific visuals in subtle ways makes you see the plight of the characters exactly the way he wants you to. The obvious messaging here is the class divide between the haves and the have nots. And the other ,not so obvious theme is the divide that exists between the have-nots themselves. As victims of systemic oppression, the lesser privileged go about trying to eliminate each other inorder to survive on the leftovers of the rich. The film appears metaphorical in places when in fact the happenings in it aren’t too far from reality.
Parasite is social realism at its best. It doesn’t vilify the rich, nor does it portray them as complete idiots. The Kim family are dirt poor but aren’t portrayed as imbeciles. The wealthy Parks don’t actually do anything to make you hate them but as the movie unfolds, it veers from being funny to something much darker and disturbing.
Be warned, the movie doesn’t let up until the very last frame! A recurring theme in the movie is the ‘odour annoyance’ that the rich Mr. Park complains about. He unapologetically talks about the smell of the working class, whom he seems to like better, when they ‘don’t cross their lines’ . Interestingly, the Kims themselves aren’t immune to this kind of thinking. In a particular scene, you see them cover their noses while passing through a rundown area of the city, when they chance upon people poorer than them. I missed this innocuous allusion the first time I saw the movie. Every situation in the movie is a metaphor, every character an allegory, all out there for us to discover over multiple viewings.
So who is the real parasite here? The rich Parks who have sinfully more than what they need and yet are rendered so helpless that they need a bunch of working class servants hovering around them at all times? Or is it the Kim family who piggyback on the Parks for their sustenance?Or perhaps, it is the hope for a better life that has rooted itself so firmly in the heads of the Kim family that at some point , they lose their sense of right and wrong entirely. I don’t have an answer.
The theme of Universal class divide notwithstanding, Parasite is neither high-brow nor pretentious. Or preachy, for that matter.
Even with my minimal understanding of this film, I could go on exploring its layers, but I’ll spare you all of that. Bong Joon Ho, already has some good movies to his credit – Memories of murder, Mother, Snowpiercer and the more recent Okja, but I’m sure Parasite has got to be his best. The movie literally is flawless.
Totally worthy of the awards that it picked up, which by the way, is tons.
And if there are any more awards left, I’m all for handing them over on a platter to Bong Joon Ho, for Parasite is the most brilliant piece of art I’ve come across in recent times.