The winner of the prestigious Palme d’Or back in May at the Cannes Film Festival, South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho has crafted the most original and entertaining film of 2019 in “Parasite” — a film layered in style and creativity.
Set in South Korea, “Parasite” follows the unemployed Kim family of four living in dire poverty in the metropolitan slums who collaboratively take an interest in the extremely wealthy Park family. One by one they infiltrate their house through a master plan of schemes and lies to be employed by them. The patriarch, Kim Ki-Taek, strives to become the Parks’ personal chauffeur, the matriarch, Moon-gwang, pursues a position as the family’s maid, while their son and daughter Kim Ki-woo and Kim Ki-jeong become tutors for the family’s son and daughter.
Each family member goes to extreme lengths to pull off their deceptive lies in order to maintain their positions, a testament to the desperate measures impoverished people are willing to go in order to get by these days. Joon-ho manages to examine the increasing inequalities between the rich and poor without ramming a political social statement down our throats. Instead, the filmmakers subtly exemplifies how both wealthy and poor people are shaped by a competitive global capitalist economy, never taking a side on which family is more of a moral embodiment.
Joon-ho expresses how people of both wealth and poverty leech off each other like parasites, the Kim family from their wealthy employers the Parks, while the Parks leech off of them for their labor. Joon-ho reveals how we as human beings use each other for personal gain and how such a relationship is embodied in our society. The fashion he used to express such a phenomenon is one of pure cinematic magic, a rich story that hits you like an ocean wave and takes twists and turns like you can’t imagine.
“Parasite” plays out as a darkly comedic satire, yet eventually takes a direction that no one will be able to see coming. Joon-ho’s ingenious script and artistic cinematic direction lead us into a film that is simply unlike anything in the history of cinema. This is a film that is able to make us laugh one minute and then have our hearts beating out of our chests the next due to the gripping and riveting intensity on screen.
What gives the film a test for the audience is how we genuinely want the Kims to succeed with their plan despite their vicious lies and desperation. Each actor delivers a humorous yet mesmerizing performance that captures the emotions and frustrations of not only poverty, but of determination and blind ambition.
Director Bong Joon-ho proves he’s one of the world’s very best filmmakers with not only his brilliant story, but the way he’s able to manipulate the audience from start to finish and craft a film with sharp imagery that illuminates the eyes. He creates an individualistic film style built upon pitch-perfect editing, gorgeous opera music that captures the film’s mood, shocking twists and gripping conflict.
“Parasite” will surely be a major contender for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards and is one of the most memorable foreign films of the 21st century. This is the kind of film that shows you what movies can do and one that makes you fall in love with cinema again.
Final Grade: A+
Dominic LeRose is a staff writer for The Daily Cardinal. To read more of his work, click here.