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By: Siddhartha Krishnan . 5 Min Read
Usually critics would say this at the end but I am going take the risk of saying it upfront, that “Parasite” is a movie like no other. It is a “bloody good” film and all lovers of good cinema should watch it.
On the surface “Parasite” is a black comedy thriller but it has many hidden layers. It is an emotional roller coaster ride from start to finish. To add to that, the languid storytelling is so refreshing that the scenes seem like visual poetry. Although, I am tempted to tell you about the many memorable scenes of the film, I will refrain from it and keep this review as spoiler free as possible.
The story is simple. It is about two families – the Kim family, who live in a semi basement apartment in South Korea and the Park family, who live in a sprawling bungalow. The Kim family members deceive the Park’s to secure jobs within their house without their knowledge that they are all part of one family. The drama that unfolds during this process and a dark twist to the proceedings, half-way through the film, is what the story is all about.
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But this is where director Bong Joon-ho, plays with the mind of the audience.
As mentioned earlier, although on the surface the film is a black comedy thriller but when you start peeling the layers off, you figure out, that there is a social commentary that is going on in the background which is conveyed through spectacular imagery. Hence, as suggested in the film’s trailer, you expect “Parasite” to be one thing and then it becomes something totally different. It is funny, dark, twisted and clever.
Right from the opening “fumigation” scene, the attention to detail is evident. The screenplay by Bong Joon-ho and Han Jin-won is exemplary. Their vision and creativity, is something other writers can learn from. For things to look so seamless on screen, there must have been a lot of effort put behind the scenes.
The montage scene also deserves a mention. In this scene Mr. Kim, who is the chauffeur of the Park family, is trying to convince Mrs Park, that the family’s long-time housekeeper’s peach allergy, is due to tuberculosis. The scene is a tribute to the skill of the writers and the background score by Jung Jae-Il, is the perfect icing on the cake.
Parasite montage scene. (Click on the link to watch the scene on YouTube)
The cinematography by Hong Kyung-pyo is commendable and the stand out feature was the use of light to evoke emotions. Hence, there was a lot of flickering and dimming of light, to give the audience an immersive experience. Also, the use of colour to kindle and enhance a certain emotion was noteworthy. In this regard, the flood scene, which shows the contrast between the rich and poor households, deserves a mention.
A lesser discussed aspect of the movie is its production design, which is top notch. The production designer Lee Ha-jun has meticulously created the world of “Parasite” in such a way, that you as the audience will be drawn to it in an instant, right from the opening scene. I am sure, that there is some amount of CGI involved to create the final impact, as with all films nowadays, but that does not take anything away from this effort.
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I see a lot of Stanley Kubrick in Bong Joon-Ho’s imagery, wherein the place becomes a character in the film, and he uses space and light to evoke intrigue within the audience. Hence, the production design had to be of a certain level to meet that vision. While preparing for this piece, I came across the following article on how the production designer, Lee Ha-jun, went about creating the iconic house of “Parasite”. It was an interesting read and might be of value to you.
There wasn’t much acting in this film instead there was a lot of reacting. Since, everything was so well choreographed, all the actors (cast) had to do, was to react to situations given to them. Hence, it is difficult, to pick out one great acting performance. But all the actors, have done a great job without having to stand out on their own. These are characters which you will identify with and who will linger in your mind after the film is over. If I must pick out one performance from the movie, I will pick all of them because its their combined effort which makes this movie memorable.
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Perhaps, the most captivating aspect of the film is the way the director has shot the deception scenes. The use of humour is interesting because Bong Joon-ho makes the audience laugh for most part of these scenes and then leaves them in shock at the end of it. This is a rare art and the director nails it.
Also, the film employs satire, to show you the class-divide and at no point does it show either side in bad light. The Kim family is shown to be intelligent because of their lack of resources. They do not have much to play with, hence, they must think out of the box to survive. While, the Park family is shown to be vulnerable because of an excess of resources at their disposal, hence, they stop using their minds. Thus, what we get are cleverly constructed scenes which will keep you at the edge of your seat.
Pic credit: npr.org
While most critics have heaped praise on the film, there have been a few, who have been critical. The criticism is that the director has been very direct in his storytelling, especially with his imagery and has left little to the imagination of the audience. Also, they have pointed out, that the daily indignities to which the poor are subjected to, are cliched.
Although, I respect these points of view and they may be correct, my counter to the argument, is that, an effort to be nuanced should only aid the storytelling process and not hamper it. At the end of the day, “Parasite” is an entertaining film and it caters not just to the artsy audience but also to everyone who loves watching good cinema. As for the clichés, although the means used to convey the message is not new, the way it has been conveyed is unique.
Finally, I’d like to say that “Parasite” is an important film, not just because it was able to transcend language barriers and reach out to a wider audience or that it has a message which has universal appeal, but because it restores faith in good cinema. Here is a film, which has managed to break all barriers and appeal to the conscience of people across the world, purely based on the quality, that it was able to deliver. It was the director’s mastery over his craft that came out of the screen, grabbed the audience by their neck and compelled them to stay hooked.
This is truly inspirational and even if the film had not won the Oscar for Best Picture or the Palme d’Or at the Cannes film festival, it would still have been the best picture of the year because it had managed to gain the love and respect of so many movie lovers across the world. At the end of the day, this is what every artist aspires to achieve.
I will end by saying that “Parasite” is not just a masterpiece but also a masterclass in filmmaking. Thus, I am going to agree with most critics across the world and give director Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite” – 5/5. In many ways, this film is visual literature and poetry, the likes of which, only the true greats have been able to deliver!
In case you are interested in watching the film, here are your options:
Due to the Oscar fever, the film is running in theatres in India but with limited shows. The film is also available on Amazon for a rental fee. Link below:
Siddhartha Krishnan is the author of “Two and a Half Rainbows – A Collection of Short Stories“. He is also an enthusiastic blogger and on his website www.whatsonsidsmind.com, he regularly puts out his essays, articles, travelogues and film reviews.
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