★ ★ ★ ★
While Bong Joon Ho might be a name unfamiliar with most western audiences, he has proven time and time again to be capable of making extraordinary films that are both accessible to a modern audience and capable of generating deeper discussion. His latest film, Parasite, might serve as his best work yet, scooping the first ever Palme D’or for a Korean film and a unanimous win at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival.
Parasite is a darkly comic film that follows the poor Kim family as they slowly worm their way into the household of the wealthy but ignorant Park family. The Kims, hardworking and cunning, find a suitable host in the Park family who lack any sense of awareness. When the opportunity arises for the eldest son, Ki-woo, to take up place as an English tutor in the Park household, the family find a chance to escape their destitute environment and begin to capitalize on their new-found fortune.
Joon Ho is no stranger to themes of class inequality in his films, Snowpiercer (2014) being a notable example of this, and Parasite continues this tradition in a less fantastical setting. The father of the Kim clan, played by the brilliant Kang-Ho Song (Memories of Murder, The Host) is a working-class man trying his best to keep the family together. His values are simple, and he lives day by day without much thought for the next. His children are more ambitious and crave the lifestyle they see in the Park household. The question of whether they can ever dream to possess such wealth pervades in the background, hanging like an unpleasant thought that haunts every character in the film.
One thing that Parasite excels in is its wonderful cinematography, each scene offers beautiful imagery in the lighting and set design. The use of light and shadows is particularly good in this film, a scene with the Park child in an outdoor tent playing with his torch at night lights up the screen like a beacon. Another scene where the camera runs overhead through the streets during a rainstorm creates an incredible view that keeps the viewer immersed in the film. Parasite is littered with shots like this that elevate the overall atmosphere of the film and capture character moments.
Where Parasite might stumble is in its scenes of brutal violence. It’s thrilling but almost unnecessary and lessens some of the message that Joon Ho is trying to say. In a film with as much tension as Parasite, a scene where Tarantino-level violence occurs seems unnecessary and surface-level to the rest of the story which is carefully developed over its 2 hour 11min run.
Overall, I give Parasite a 4/5. It’s an excellent film that will keep you hooked and leave you thinking about it afterwards. While Bong Joon Ho might have a flair for the extreme he manages to keep the story on course and deliver a solid ending. Be sure to watch it when you have the chance.
Anton Rivas Pertile – Film Writer