At this point in his career, Bong Joon-ho is well known for his class system commentaries. Whether it be Okja, Snowpiercer, or The Host, he has always delivered a layered and meaningful look at class systems. The countries portrayed are not only his home country of South Korea, but also all over the world. Parasite feels like the culmination of Joon-ho’s long filmmaking career and Parasite‘s best picture win at this year’s Academy Awards cemented that.
Parasite follows the Kims, a low class family living in a small basement apartment. When a friend of the family suggests to Ki-woo, the son of the family, to take over his tutoring job when he goes abroad, the Kim family sees this as an opportunity to gain wealth. They decide to slowly infiltrate the Parks, the family that Ki-woo is working for, by gaining jobs by recommending each other to the heads of the Park family. However, when the Parks go away on a camping trip, the Kim family discovers a dark secret within the Parks’ house.
Parasite is probably Bong Joon-ho’s best work. The clear distinction between each location and the people that occupy that space is shown brilliantly through the movement of the camera and the difference in color pallete. While the Kims’ apartment is dreary and without much color, the Park household is bright with clear color contrast. The apartment becomes increasingly claustrophobic as the movie goes on, especially during the heavy rain at the end of the second act. However, the Parks’ household feels spacious, with more than enough room for each member of this house. This imagery is then dismantled once the secret underground basement is discovered by the Kim family. While Parasite has some truly great comedical moments, it shines most with its horror imagery. The eeriness of the Parks’ basement and how different it is compared to every other location in the film kept me in suspense even when there was no clear conflict on screen. Together with cinematographer and director of photography, Hong Kyung-pyo, Bong Joon-ho brings a unique visual style to each location within the film.
Class system commentary is not a new subject in film. Earlier in 2019, Jordan Peele’s Us covered similar territory with its commentary on how the middle class is slowly widening the gap between it and the lower class by stepping on their toes when trying to build their own foundation. However, while Us struggled to balance its multiple themes, Parasite had one singular focus. If it was not for Bong Joon-ho and Han Jin-won’s brilliant writing, the social commentary within Parasite would likely seem just as bloated. This is most obviously represented in how Kim family raises themselves up financially by feeding off of the wealth and success of the Parks. However, the best example of this is the Parks’ basement. Oh Geun-sae, the husband of the Park family’s previous caretaker, has literally been feeding off of the Parks’ wealth to keep himself alive. Once his comfort is threatened by the Kim family, he fights back, struggling to keep his class position. However, once he is killed at the end of the film, a void is left. This position must be filled by someone, and Ki-taek, the father of the Kim family, fills that spot due to his actions in the climax of the film.
The score, composed by Jung Jae-il, only added to the suspense of the film. While being more melancholic at the Park household, the score ramps up its subtle intensity during the more suspenseful scenes. It shines the most during the flooding of the Kim’s apartment. The score compliments Bong Joon-ho’s direction perfectly. It is odd that Jung’s score was not nominated for best original score at the Oscars this year.
It is an absolute crime that not a single member of Parasite‘s incredible cast was nominated for an acting award at this year’s Academy Awards. Each actor portrayed their role brilliantly, leaving nothing to be desired. However, the standouts for me were Song Kang-ho as Kim Ki-taek, Choi Woo-shik as Kim Ki-woo, and Park Myung-hoon as Oh Geun-Sae. Song Kang-ho’s clear understanding of the story Bong Joon-ho is telling, likely due to his previous work with the director, shines through his performance. None of the film’s talent is wasted.
Parasite is the culmination of all of Bong Joon-ho’s previous works. Not only is its social commentary well done, but the visuals perfectly compliment it. Every piece of this movie fits together perfectly. After seeing this movie, it is clear that Parasite truly deserved its best picture win. Everyone involved did a fantastic job. I am curious to see what Bong Joon-ho will make next. Hopefully it’s at least a fraction as good as this movie. Parasite is a masterpiece.