'Parasite' is an astounding and beautifully-crafted piece of cinema, written and directed by Bong Joon-ho, with co-writer Han Jin-won.
It is at its heart a compassionate work of art, and wraps the best and worst of humanity into one gripping story. Although it is a thriller, and the events and acting are often exaggerated in the classic comedic style known to Korean cinema and director Bong Joon-ho, it manages to remain stunningly realist.
Like many of Bong Joon-ho’s films, 'Parasite' is a social exploration into the theme of class conflict, crafted in an elegant and thoughtful manner. The tale follows an unemployed family who live in a semi-basement, and a series of unbelievable events that begin with a twisted scheme to get themselves work with a rich family. The stark contrast between the lives of the rich and poor is elucidated with impeccable timing, powerful cinematography and a visual appeal that finds beauty in rough edges as well as the pristine. A particularly striking scene shows the father, son and daughter running home in torrential rain, from the wealthy to the poor area of the city after coming close to losing everything.
Bong Joon-ho’s writing is such that it manages to make the unbelievable believable, with the outlandish events that occur becoming possible due to the desperate situation of poverty that the family finds themselves in. The film also explores the interaction of poverty and morality, in a way that is humbling and highlights the things people will do just to help themselves and their family to survive. It asks the audience, ‘well, what would you have done in their place?’ It is a clear-eyed production, that is full of arresting insights, and captures the relentlessness of life when circumstances spiral out of control.
Bong Joon-ho manages to create complex characters that have a depth you feel you never quite see the entirety of. The film itself keeps audiences guessing at what the characters will do next and what this will reveal about them. It touches on ideas and suggestions without overdoing anything. The characters are likeable, and their unique talents and love for each other win you over to their side, even when their actions could be deemed questionable. You go through every harrowing moment with them and despair at the escalating unmanageability of their situation.
Through its characterisation and plot, 'Parasite' breaks stereotypes and explores the complex and varied circumstances that can leave people in poverty. Each family member portrays differently the mental states poverty can create, from hopelessness, to desperation, a short-term mindset and over-dreaming. This is captured well when the father in the family says to his son something to the effect of “it’s better not to have a plan because then nothing can go wrong”.
The film draws out what would usually be subtle parts of everyday life that go unnoticed, and makes them impossible to miss. Both the acting and action in this film are heightened in a effortless way, that will leave you on the edge of your seat. It definitely takes you through a full range of emotions, and you may find yourself biting your nails, and then laughing out loud the next moment, or possibly crying. 'Parasite' is definitely a film which stays with you for a long time afterwards.
Initially, Bong Joon-ho was surprised at how well 'Parasite' had been received around the world because it is so classically Korean. It is now a blockbuster in Korea, has won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, and is already doing very well in box offices in Australia.
'Parasite' plays as part of OzAsia's film programme at Mercury Cinema from 19 October-5 November.