A genre defying FILM that eats you away from the inside
BY CASEY LEE
Climbing up the social ladder is an aspiration, especially for those who find themselves on the lower rungs. While some may choose to work their way to success through grit, others find the path of less resistance by attaching themselves to those who already have wealth at their disposal, so that they may enjoy whatever scraps that fall off the table. Parasite, as its name suggests, explores the relationship between the gracious elite and the parasitic lower class, who put themselves under their subservience.
The audience's surrogate are the Kims, a family who has survived on doing odd jobs and leeching whatever Wi-Fi signal they can find in every corner of their sub-basement home, but has more talent as charlatans and deception than finding success with the proper opportunities. When a family friend visits to drop off a fortuitous rock, its magic works almost instantly; he introduces the eldest son to home tutor to the daughter of the upscale Parks. After making an impression on missus Parks, who is responsible for running all the household affairs, including hiring any competent help (including the housekeeper that came with their large estate), the eldest Kim seizes the opportunity to introduce and induct the rest of the Kims to work for the Parks, in any capacity without being accused of nepotism, which involves maintaining discrete identities from each other.
Returning back to modern Seoul after two sci-fi oriented outings (in another language made for non-traditional platforms), Parasite leans heavily on director Bong Joon-ha's pet subject of family, by scaling up and putting the microscope on multiple things this time. Starting out with the careful planning to ingrain themselves into the daily lives and needs of the Parks with heist-like tension, Bong’s Parasite recurs his multi-genre take with multiple motions. Bong isn't making surface arguments by taking either sides, as the Kims and Parks are not entirely unlikable for their behaviour, rather actually complicates the issue when the story takes a dark turn during a dark and stormy night. Slapped with Bong's trademark and timely dark sense of humour originally made for stage script, it delves deep into the themes of class division, social structure and economic questions of a capitalist Korean society that, while it has deep roots in Korean culture, can easily be transfigured into something more universal and still maintain its edgy commentary. Nevertheless, Bong's technical delivery is at its peak and can turn a scene of a couple cuddling to sleep into a blood-curdling juxtaposition for who is (truly) hiding under them.
Perhaps what gave Bong and Korea's first Palm d'Or is because Parasite defied genre bounds (at the same time being one of the rare few genre films to win the award), just as he has elevated from a genre master to a profound auteur who has created his own. For a director who has built his career and reputation on making genre films, Bong Joon-ho's films has never been one that was easy to fit within a single conventional genre mould, if not dipping into many pots. Parasite may be his most distinguishable, but for now we would take his word for it which is, as he calls it, a tragicomedy.