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Parasite Gives Masterful Storytelling a New Meaning

November 22, 2019 | By Audrey Wang, Illustrations by Jenny Chen

Director Bong Joon Ho took home the Palme d’Or at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival for his latest film, Parasite, and rightly so. Parasite deserves all its accolades and surpasses all expectations. As fans of the film are raving, it truly is mind-blowing, and certainly a worthy candidate for the best movie of the year.

Illustrations by Jenny Chen

Parasite follows an impoverished family of four who fold pizza boxes for a living and cough their way through toxic fumes to get a free extermination. Kim Ki-taek (Song Kang Ho), the patriarch of the family, is unable to get his family out of the basement they live in. The whole family is stuck, unable to make more money and move up in the world, and they can’t even kick out the drunk man pissing on their doorstep at night. The son, Ki-woo (Choi Woo Shik), meets with a friend and is gifted a giant scholar’s rock which is meant to bring luck and fortune, and the friend also lands him a job as an English tutor for the daughter of the well-off Park family, Da-hye (Jung Ziso). At the Park estate, Ki-woo scales the steps through multiple gated doors up to a beautiful house on the top of a hill. It has green space, three small dogs, and big empty rooms — nothing like the poisonous basement he is crammed in with his family. The Kim family scams their way to getting jobs for Ki-woo’s sister Kim Ki-jung (Park So-dam), mother Chung-sook (Jang Hye-jin), and Ki-taek as well, all in that big, beautiful mansion.

 

During a night of celebration, the Kim family hangs out in the living room of the mansion while the Parks are out of town. They drink fancy alcohol and leave crumbs everywhere in the elegant living room. “They’re rich, but they’re nice,” Ki-taek states about the unassuming Park family, to which Chung-sook spits, “They’re nice because they’re rich.”

Illustrations by Jenny Chen

Bong masterfully paints the two families in an equal light: one taking advantage of the other’s naivety, and the other draining them for their manual labor. They’re both awful families in their own ways, with the Kims being coarse and vulgar while the Parks are cruel and narcissistic. But, however awful they are, they both just want the best for their own families, at whatever cost. Bong’s social commentary on class at the base level of where the families live is just as “metaphorical” as the rock the Kims obtain, and Bong exposes the monster in the basement that everyone tries so hard to forget.

 

The editing and camera movement is razor sharp throughout the entirety of the film. The delivery of the dialogue and the class-A ensemble come together to create this delightfully tense smash hit. Bong knows exactly what he wants to say and the most effective way to deliver it. It’s a story of survival, and the drastic class differences could easily be set anywhere. The first half is hilarious and charming, yet there’s an uneasiness that soon starts to settle in. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is until the second half gets rolling. It is mind-boggling and shocking when this comedy snaps into tragedy and horror as the stakes get higher and higher — and maybe that lucky rock isn’t so lucky anymore.

 

Parasite is a film that is best seen having the least amount of prior knowledge possible. Bong is a master storyteller, and knows exactly what he’s doing at every turn. All you have to do is go and watch.