by D. Adonis
***** 5 Stars
‘What is great about Parasite is that it not simply a rich versus poor story: it is a film in which the poor rip each other apart, and where both the destitute and the wealthy become victims, albeit it is the former who pays the full price.’
2019 marks the 100th year of South Korean cinema, home to brilliant, internationally revered auteurs such as Park Chan-Wook (Oldboy, The Handmaiden), Lee Chang-Dong (Burning, Poetry), Kim Ki-Duk (3-Iron, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring), Kim Jee-Won (A Bittersweet Life, I Saw The Devil), Hong Sang-Soo (Right Now, Wrong Then, The Day He Arrives), the list goes on. Perhaps coincidentally, the South Korean film industry makes history as Bong Joon-Ho became the first Korean director to win Cannes’ Palme D’Or award and the Oscar for Best Picture with the phenomenal black comedy thriller Parasite.
Parasite is equal parts social satire, family drama and home-invasion thriller. It centres around the poor Kim family’s scheme to slowly infiltrate the home of the rich Park family, as would a parasite invade its host. Starting with the eldest son, Ki-Woo (Choi Woo-Sik) posing as an English tutor, little by little the rest of the family put on the act as employees in the Park home: sister Ki-Jung (Park So-Dam) as an art therapist, the father Ki-Taek (Song Kang-Ho) as the family driver, and the mother Chung-sook (Jang Hye-Jin) as the housekeeper. The film is filled with terrific performances from the ensemble cast: the South Korean everyman Song Kang-Ho (Memories of Murder, Thirst) once again outperforms as the Kim patriarch, and Cho Yeo-Jeong (The Concubine), who plays the rich wife Mrs. Park, succeeds in portraying a sense of likeable gullibility stemming from a sheltered upbringing, which does not morph into stupidity (‘She’s nice because she’s rich’, the mother Chung-sook comments of Mrs Park).
In the action-packed and emotionally gripping second half, the Kims meet their tragedy after their short lived success in invading the rich as the dark secret in the basement of the Park home becomes a threat. It is best to leave the key plot points out and experience the latter part of the film in its full glory, but Parasite reveals to be just as rewarding on repeated viewings. The impact remains riveting during its critical moments, the funny bits do not lose their charm, and its distinct social message is not lost upon the viewer. In this film, Bong takes his anti-capitalist message further (which he has also explored in Snowpiercer and Okja). What is great about Parasite is that it not simply a rich versus poor story: it is a film in which the poor rip each other apart, and where both the destitute and the wealthy become victims, albeit it is the former who pays the full price.
Parasite has already won numerous international awards and broke many records, and has deservedly made Academy Award History.
Parasite is currently out in cinemas nationwide and was rated 15 by the BBFC.