“When I write an original story I write about people I know first-hand and situations I'm familiar with”- Satyajit Ray
In one of the scenes in “Parasite”, the ‘leader’ of the impoverished Kim family celebrates by drinking a few cans of beer with his family in his micro basement home. The occasion as per Kim is ‘the reconnection of their cellphones and the return of the ‘mighty’ wi-fi’. In yet another scene, the out of job family is folding pizza boxes for making some money failing which their measly pay is reduced by a 10% penalty. In a stark contrasting image, the wealthy Park family in the same city enjoys the view of the onset of rain by sipping cocktail from their lavish and large drawing room, but the Kim family’s home gets flooded by the rain and they are running for cover as they become homeless. Director Bong Jon Hoo’s vision creates the classes divide in South Korea where the viewer enjoys the high of luxury within the Park family and then gets thrown into a pit of misery and hopelessness with the Kim family. It’s these incredibly different pedestals of living and the conflict it creates which defines this seminal film.
As I write this essay, “Parasite” has already won four Oscars including “Best Picture”, “Best Director” and “Original Screenplay”. It has successfully beaten heavyweight competition like “Joker”, “The Irishman”, “1917” to take away the coveted categories.
The film is now playing in theatres across India (with English subtitles).
Parasite is a Korean film produced by CJ Entertainment and is Directed by Bong Joon Ho. Its screenplay is written by Bong Joon Ho and Han Jin Won. The film stars leading Korean actors such as Song Kang Ho, superstar Park So Dam, A scintillating performance by Lee Jung Eun and a host of top rate actors. The music of the film is by Jung Jae-il.
What is the concept of “Parasite”?
Bong Joon Ho has created a satirical take on the classes divide in the modern world. To say that the film’s narrative has relevance confined to a certain geography can be wrong. This story has an universal appeal and can be adapted to any nation, ethnicity. Rich and Poor exist in all parts of the world. As some people move up from being poor to being rich, a large number still dwell and deal in poverty. “Parasite” is their story. It’s about their dreams, their aspirations and how they look at the world above them. In one of the press interactions, Director Bong Joon claimed that the Kim family will take a total of 258 working years to attain the financial scalability of the Park family. The movie does a parallel deep dive into the life of a poverty stricken Kim family which celebrates the availability of internet and folds pizza boxes for a living. But “Parasite” also explores the nuance of the well heeled and rich Park family who keep delving into insecurity in trivial matters on a regular basis. The convergence of these two parallel worlds are at the heart of storytelling in “Parasite”.
In modern day Seoul, the Kim family led by father Kim-Ki-Taek and comprises wife Park Chung Sook, son Kevin and daughter Jessica. They all live in a semi basement home in the slum area of Seoul where people frequently urinate near their house and getting sunlight is tough for them. In these trying circumstances, Jessica and Kevin ace their lives by surfing the internet and learning about the world around them. To make ends meet, they fold pizza boxes, wear the same clothes and so on. By the stroke of luck, one of Kevin’s friend offers him a job to tutor the daughter of the affluent Park family. It turns out that Kevin is good at his job and slowly paves the way for Jessica, Kim and mother Chung Sook at the home of the Park family. Mr Kim dons the hat for a chauffeur, Chung Sook becomes the homekeeper (after strategically shunting out the earlier house manager) and Jessica becomes an “art teacher” for the son of the Park family. They slowly start to feed on the Park household until something tragic and unexpected occurs to change the lives of both the Parks and the Kims. In the sequence of events, the earlier house manager Moon Gwang and her husband play a pivotal role.
The visual narrative of “Parasite”
The vision of Bong Joon and his cinematographer Hong Kyung-pyo is to make the audience immerse to the lowest in the worlds of the Park and Kim families. For instance, the shots in the Park family focuses on the wide expanse from their windows. The house has been designed to make the audience feel the space and enormity of it. On the other hand, the Kim family home is shown where the entire home might not be as big as one of the bedrooms of the Park household as such. Park thinks of building his huge business with his management team and Kim on the other hand doesn’t know where the next meal will come from. The Park home and its vastness, its occupants, facets make The Park family home a character in itself. It talks to you, lets you in itself and surprises you at every moment. Production Designer Lee Ha Jun and Set Designer Chon Woon Wo were nominated at the Oscars for “Best Production Design” up against far bigger films such as “The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit and 1917”. At a production budget of $11 Million , its no mean feat…
The Character Evolution of “Parasite”
A look at Park and a look at Kim, you will see polar opposites of the same society. One looks like the epitome of success and the person who has built a successful life and family. The other is however a failure, someone from below the poverty line. But here Bong Joon creates the glue which is common to both Park and Kim. They both are committed to raising their families. It’s this common thread which runs through the plot of the film. And it is fascinating to see that both families have similar issues here. Both have dirty fantasies, both want the best for their children, both share their achievements with their families. The love story between Kevin and Da-Haye ( the daughter of the Park family) is a case in point. Kevin clearly is a con and Da-haye is not appreciated enough in her house, these facets make them an unlikely couple. Bong Joon’s wants to portray that the classes have a divide but their humanity is messed up in their own ways. But the most brilliant character in the story has to be Moon Gwang (the earlier housemaid), she has lesser screen time but she elevates the narrative to an unexpected level! She makes this film special.
Direction of Bong Joon Ho
Bong Joon is a master craftsman. He usually picks up unorthodox stories like “Snowpiercer”, “Okja”, “The Host” where he looks at unusual occurrences and its effect on its lead characters. He combines the shooting styles of Yasujiro Ozu(inventor of the “Tatami Shot”)where Bong Joon uses camera at very low heights to move in the real world of its characters and Alfred Hitchcock where he uses the various “narrow misses” in the script and delays the reveal of the moment. He skillfully creates a “hell” when he takes you to the home of the Kim family but he also creates a “Shangri-La” at the Park residence. The shot in which the Kim family walks down to their home in the rain is what legendary filmmaking is all about. Bong Joon has successfully seesawed the high and the low of the society. Full marks to entrepreneur and seasoned Hollywood investor Miky Lee (Samsung Family) of CJ Group to back Bong Joon’s unique vision. In the future, Bong Joon will firmly establish himself as a leading auteur as he has aced the ‘classes divide’ in most of his films.
“Parasite” is one of the films where there is flawless acting by the entire ensemble. It’s very hard to find a bad performance. But I would go with portrayal of Moon Gwang and Kim as simply outstanding.
“Parasite” should be given a 10 out of 10 and it’s my first review with a 100% score. It’s the best film of the year!