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Parasite

Parasite

[…] However, what ultimately makes this film such a gripping parable of class, status and injustice is the fact that although, initially, it may be clear that the only way to go is up, there are so many exquisitely constructed, baffling and downright hilarious twists and turns built into the plot that one cannot help but sit on the edge of the cinema seat in awe and wonder about the events unfolding on screen.

[…] Even though the film has increasingly dark undertones of social inequality in modern Korea, the main protagonists bring about a sort of melancholy hope for humanity wrapped in a fine shroud of mystery, shrewd charm and outbursts of violence, and accompanied by a brilliant score by Jaeil Jung that adds yet another layer to the rich fabric of the film.

There is an old saying that comes to mind when watching Parasite: «When you've reached rock-bottom, the only way is up». This is certainly true for the loving but run-down family in Bong Joon-ho’s latest film, and it is nothing less than mind-blowingly fascinating and deeply unsettling to watch how the Korean master filmmaker manages to get his protagonists up the ladder and back down again. There is, of course, the complex construction of satire and social commentary worked into a smart, devious and amusing script that is, first and foremost, utterly poignant to its very core. There are also Bong’s artistry and craftsmanship, his meticulous attention to structure and style, and his unique sense of pace and tension. However, what ultimately makes this film such a gripping parable of class, status and injustice is the fact that although, initially, it may be clear that the only way to go is up, there are so many exquisitely constructed, baffling and downright hilarious twists and turns built into the plot that one cannot help but sit on the edge of the cinema seat in awe and wonder about the events unfolding on screen.

Typically, this puts the reviewer in a precarious position, with critical hands somewhat bound. Every word said might reveal an aspect of the film that is best kept secret from anyone who is yet to engage with it in the cinema, and there is a high risk of the experience being less rewarding for the audience as a result of this. After all, Parasite lives and breathes the art of storytelling by using the power of suspense, and tapping into human emotions. It’s with this in mind that one should approach the film and in particular its narrative, which revolves around family patriarch Ki-taek, his wife, adult daughter and son as they elegantly delve into an intrigue of lies and deceit that is primarily driven by their poverty-stricken circumstance. What’s more: their first encounter with the wealth and luxury that surrounds the life of the entrepreneurial Park family merely builds the foundation of an outrageous plan that, eventually, will help them escape their rancid basement home and occupy the spacious, hyper modern villa of their rich but naïve employers.

Moving on from what might otherwise be described as straightforward storytelling Parasite soon proceeds to create interesting scenarios of exaggeration and contradiction in order to make its point. As with any of Bong’s films, it is fuelled entirely by the director’s imagination, aesthetic and ingenuity, that go far beyond the depiction of a bunch of eccentric characters, and instead lends its keen eye to cinematic tropes such as place and setting, camera movement and framing, a general ambiance of uncertainty, and – not least – deadpan humour. Even though the film has increasingly dark undertones of social inequality in modern Korea (and the rest of the world for that matter), the main protagonists bring about a sort of melancholy hope for humanity wrapped in a fine shroud of mystery, shrewd charm and outbursts of violence, and accompanied by a brilliant score by Jaeil Jung that adds yet another layer to the rich fabric of the film.

What is perhaps most astonishing about Parasite, however, is the brilliance of architectural finesse and emotional refinement on display in every single shot. Much as the title suggests, it is a film that creeps up on you and almost inconspicuously gets under your skin. Before long, there’s no way out of this masterly twisted composition or, in fact, the wealthy house that, at some point, almost turns the film into a chamber drama as hidden doors, a forgotten basement and puzzling lighting arrangements slowly but surely reveal their true secrets to the protagonists. From start to finish, Bong skilfully arranges and deranges senses and intellect, always shifting just left or right of the periphery. Every moment of bliss is countered by a crunch of harsh malice, yet the film never loses equilibrium as his characters battle relentlessly on both sides, the rich and the poor, upstairs and downstairs, to come out on top, even when all is long lost.

First published: August 06, 2019

Parasite | Film | Bong Joon-ho | KOR 2019 | 132’

Best Film at Festival de Cannes 2019

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Screenings in Swiss cinema theatres 

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