Having traveled to South Korea this past summer, I consider myself lucky to have been able to see Parasite before its US release in October. The film had just had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, where it took home the coveted Palme d’Or, making history as the first Korean film to win. Not only did Bong Joon-ho’s masterpiece beat out Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, but it was also a unanimous vote.
Photo credit: Neon
Bong Joon-ho, the creative mastermind behind films such as The Host, Snowpiercer, and Okja, surprises audiences once again with Parasite—in ways you could never think possible. This dark comedy thriller begins in a dilapidated basement, where the view of the outside world is of drunk men urinating against the window. The Kim family, led by the patriarch Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho), just barely survive in their below-ground home as they struggle to find work. But don’t get me wrong. They are smart. Smarter than we think.
When the son Ki-woo’s (Choi Woo-shik) friend leaves to study abroad, he takes over his tutoring job for the wealthy Park family. Having injected himself into this fortress of economic prosperity, Ki-woo and the rest of his family plot to have the Park family unknowingly employ all of them, at which they sneakily succeed. The daughter Ki-jeong becomes their art tutor. The mother Chung-sook becomes their maid. And the father Ki-taek becomes their driver.
Photo credit: CJ Entertainment
Bong Joon-ho’s chilling interpretation of class division is ever so apparent within the Kim and the Park family, who, despite the film’s name, live in a symbiotic relationship. He is literally separating them by having the impoverished live “downstairs,” while the rich live comfortably “upstairs.” This metaphor may seem simple and straight-forward right now, but after seeing the whole film, you’ll understand it on a completely new and terrifying level.
Parasite is funny, paralyzing, thought-provoking, heart-wrenching, and everything in-between. It’s difficult to put into words the genius of this film because it doesn’t fit into any one genre, which is extremely fitting. While already selected as South Korea’s entry for Best International Feature Film at the 92nd Academy Awards, there is a large chance that it will rightfully be considered for Best Picture—Korea’s first-ever nomination.
Forget about the language barrier — subtitles exist for a reason. Its message is universal. I am in no way fluent at speaking or understanding Korean, but walking out of that blackened theater, I felt the overall importance of the film hit me like a ton of bricks.