Parasite is a fascinating black comedy from Korea which shows the lifestyle of Koreans who are under financial stress and the lengths they will go to survive.
Bong Joon-ho’s production garnered top honours at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, winning the prestigious Palme d’Or (Golden Palm) and it is also Korea’s official entry in the best foreign language film category for next year’s Academy Awards.
In Parasite, audiences meet an unusual family who exist from hand-to-mouth on a daily basis and seek ways to improve their lot in life.
It’s tough out there and this one family, living in a squalid basement-level apartment, find a clever solution to their problems – but it involves much cunning and meanness.
The four members, comprising the unmotivated patriarch Kim Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho), his supportive but unambitious wife Chung-sook (Jang Hye-jin), his cynical twenty-something daughter Ki-jung (Park So-dam) and his college-age son Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik), who by sheer luck, find an opportunity to better themselves and earn an income.
Ki-woo is recommended by his friend, a student at a prestigious university, for a well-paid tutoring job, spawning hopes of a regular income. Carrying the expectations of all his family, Ki-woo heads to the affluent Park family home for an interview. He summons up the courage to pose as an English tutor for their teenage daughter.
The Park family seems to have everything their heart desires. This lucrative business proposition escalates and helps pave the way for an insidiously subtle scheme.
The mother is meek and naive, and succumbs easily to suggestions and psychological manipulation.
The stage is now set to bring other members of the Kim family into the rich Park family environment. They take up positions as chauffeur, cook and art teacher to their two spoilt children.
Slowly, they manage to ingratiate themselves within the Park family circle – but there is a dark ulterior motive to their careful planning, and things could suddenly backfire in this winner-takes-all class war.
Each stage of the subterfuge is very cleverly executed and the build-up works nicely. However, the ending deteriorates senselessly into an unnecessary orgy of violence, which unsettles the carefully balanced narrative.
The acting from the Korean cast is commanding and, overall, Parasite manages to put a new and often amusing spin on crime.
Cast: Song Kang-ho, Park So-dam, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik
Director: Bong Joon-ho (Korean with English subtitles)
Classification: 16 DSV