Class conscious Korean thriller “Parasite” is a shocking masterpiece

Art Boettge, staff writer

Writer-Director Bong Joon-Ho’s newest film “Parasite”, released in 2019, is a mixed bag in terms of genre. At first it looks like a dark comedy. Then the story begins to veer suspensefully into the land of pseudo-horror and quickly has you gripping your seat. The movie focuses on the destitute Kim family, who, as symbolized by their half underground basement apartment, are literally at the bottom of society. Their situation is juxtaposed by the immensely wealthy Park family, whose hilltop mansion designed by a renowned architect represents the extreme class divisions in their society. 

The film opens with a glimpse into life for the Kim family as they struggle to make ends meet. The middle-aged parents live in a cramped back-alley apartment with their young adult children.  From trying to steal their neighbor’s wifi to leaving their windows open during a fumigation for “free extermination,” the Kims are clearly opportunists. When the oldest son, Kim Ki-Woo, is given a rare opportunity to be an English tutor to the Park family’s teenage daughter, he forges university credentials to secure the job and paycheck. Soon, the entire family connives to wedge their way into sought-after positions in the Park family’s household.  

Joon-Ho skillfully tells the story from the Kim family’s perspective—allowing the audience to empathize with them as they ruthlessly take advantage of the Parks. Through the use of close-ups that show the characters’ deep emotions, the audience can feel their anxiety and desperation throughout the film, even up until the very last moments. Additionally, close attention to detail serves to further hammer in the points the film is trying to make. For example, the fumigation that was mentioned early symbolizes how the Kims are the “parasites.” Even the camera angles help develop the themes. When the rich Park family is shown on screen, the camera is pointing up at them, and when the Kim family is featured, the camera angle looks down on them. This epitomizes how the Park family is vastly superior to the Kim family Every aspect of this film is there for a reason. 

 Joon-Ho delves into the collective unconscious by tapping into the audience’s pre-existing prejudices about rich people’s apathy towards those who are less fortunate. For example, Mrs. Park, a perfectly coiffed and delicately beautiful socialite, calls a catastrophic rain that causes massive flooding in poorer areas and leaves scores of people homeless a “blessing.” While the Parks never do anything actually wrong, they seem wooden, aloof, and easily manipulated. They do not care for those who have been truly loyal and as a result, they find themselves preyed upon.  

The film utilizes symbolism effectively in crafting a tense atmosphere. Dark spaces juxtaposed with sunlight streaming through the windows create a stark contrast between the social classes in Korea. Through sensory imagery the director makes the audience better understand the character’s world. For instance, Mr. Park’s dislike of Mr. Kim’s smell shows rather than tells the audience how intolerant and judgemental the wealthy can be.  

“Parasite” is an epic tale of wealth, power, greed, and dreams, told through the lens of a down-on-their-luck family trying to better their own lives at the cost of others. The film effectively communicates many different themes and makes social commentary while also remaining highly entertaining and emotionally exhausting until the very end. With deep and relatable characters, effective cinematography and plot twists—”Parasite” well deserves it’s 4 oscar wins for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Foreign Language Film and Best Original Screenplay.