Director: Bong Joon-ho
Stars: Song Kang-ho, Lee Syn-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam
Review by Damocles
Its … so metaphorical.
Parasite, the latest film by Korean auteur Bong Joon-ho (of Snowpiercer, Okja and Mother fame) is a brilliantly executed thriller.
The pacing of the film’s plot threads and characterisations of its key players is perfect. Not a single frame is wasted, not a single beat missed and the story is beautifully economical with how each character reacts to more and more dire situations.
Joon-ho’s skill at pace is all the more impressive when you consider the juxtaposition of humour in tense situations. Yet the way how Joon-ho manages to balance both of those elements within a single scene is no doubt one of his trademark abilities.
Not many directors can balance and create such dark comedic moments in a film with such heavy themes. And I would argue none do it better than Bong Joon-ho.
And the themes that run through the film are obvious from the title alone. One does not need to repeat viewings of this film to see the obvious discussion around class, society and status. Yet there are just as nuanced and subtle debate about how Joon-ho chooses the portray the titular “parasitic” family, our protagonists.
We flip-flop between sympathy and reluctant disgust at their actions. The characters, are brilliantly realised and their desperation is portrayed beautifully by an excellent cast.
By far, the best thing about the film, are how each character, minor or major, are logically inhuman and human with their desires and emotional state regardless of the situation. Each action, each decision is perfect for the character and the consequences they suffer are a result of their own folly.
A film like Parasite, dissects the irrationality behind the rational concept of doing a con.
And that juxtaposition alone is what makes the film such compelling watching.
Acknowledgement must be made to the director’s ability to hold tension within a scene, to create frames of art in a drab urban environment (of particular note is the descending staircase sequence), and his ability to create new angles with the camera, despite being confided to 2 locations throughout the entire film.
This film, utilises light and architecture beautifully, whilst never quite sacrificing realism for style. There is style and punch to the camerawork, but it is never a distraction to the characters and the plot, the true linchpins of the film.
A slight weakness in the film’s near-perfect execution is the lack of a memorable soundtrack. Much of it was ambient and large forgettable. I would also level a small critique to costuming, with many characters lacking a distinct flair to their personalities. But such quibbles can easily be explained away by the setting and its realistic approach to Korean slice-of-life.
Korean cinema is at its finest when it explores dark themes and thrusts its likeable characters into dark situations. And here, with a plot that twists, turns and topple your expectations of what to expect next …. Parasite is a cornerstone of Korean cinema that thoroughly deserves its Palme d’Or.
A scene to recall: The flood, the stairs and the transition.