Focusing on the rich Park family and the poor Kim family who concoct a scheme to find jobs working for the Parks, Bong Joon Ho’s latest film Parasite is as much a film about architecture and levels as it is about the lives of families in different classes. The first shot we see is of a window in a dull semi-basement apartment that is being penetrated by the light of the street above. The nuance of this shot alone and the fact that one could write entire paragraphs on just this image and its significance is a true testament to both the production design and Bong’s genius.
Like this shot, every scene in this film has not one purpose, but many. Every camera angle; every line; every position a character is portrayed in are all significant and immaculately thought out to illustrate Bong’s complex and nuanced critique of the class system under capitalism: a critique he displays with great complexity. Too many discussions surrounding this topic display the class divide in far too simplistic a manner. Parasite, however, recognises that powerful and poignant social critiques are far from easy or simple to make as while this film contains protagonists, there are no heroes. Bong does not only call into question the class structure but its effects on morality- particularly to those within the lower classes.
But these heavy and poignant points never become pretentious or heavy-handed, as Bong and his co-writer, Jin Won Han, create a masterful dialogue that is subtle yet effective, humorous yet unsettling, nuanced yet immediately provocative. Just like everything else within this film, this humour and tension are always used with a purpose and to make a statement. Furthermore, on top of this amazing dialogue are the terrific performances by the entire cast who were sadly and rather frustratingly all snubbed of well deserved Oscar nominations. However, while the entire cast gave amazing and nuanced performances, I feel the need to highlight both Song Kang Ho (as Kim Ki-taek) and Lee Jung Eun (as Moon-gwang) as particular standouts within the cast.
I can say without any doubt that this is Bong’s magnum opus. Parasite is a true display of a master at work that everyone should watch, if not for its sheer excellence but for its amazing and relevant social commentary. Parasite is a haunting and compelling watch that refuses to leave you after you’ve left it, not because what is so unsettling is unknown and mysterious, but because it is undeniably real and inescapable.
Words by Emma Reilly