'Parasite' One-Ups 'Snowpiercer' as Bong Joon-ho's Masterpiece on Class Struggle Directed by Bong Joon-ho
Starring Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam
Published Oct 22, 2019Korean auteur Bong Joon-ho nailed class struggle commentary with 2013 post-apocalyptic epic Snowpiercer, and he's miraculously done it again with Parasite. On paper, the two films couldn't be any more different — where Snowpiercer was a science fiction action film, Parasite is a hyper-realistic family drama. Both films find their power from the ways in which they explore inequality, but where Snowpiercer did so with its strong visual style and distinct world, Parasite's lies in the fact that the world it depicts is very much our own.
Parasite follows the Kims, a family of four living in a cramped semi-basement in inner-city South Korea. When the family's son, poetic daydreamer Ki-woo, lands a job tutoring a wealthy high schooler, he hatches a plan that eventually finds all four Kims working for the rich Park family underneath a messy web of lies.
At this point, the film is a straight-up comedy — with the best use of peaches in film since Call Me By Your Name — balanced by the political commentary on the absurdities of income inequality. Bong uses empty space as a primary signifier of class disparity: the cinematography of early scenes in the Kims' basement apartment is cramped and claustrophobic, while the introduction of the wealthy family's sprawling, upper-class neighbourhood was accompanied in the theatre by a collective exhale.
As the film progresses and the Kims become increasingly comfortable in the Parks' employ, it becomes obvious that everything is bound to fall apart — it's truly a marvel, however, as to how. What follows is a whiz-bang series of events that, despite its fast pacing and gradual tonal shifts, stays true to the film's established style. By the end, Parasite is a horror film, made all the more terrifying by the idea that all the horrors are of our own doing. There's no apocalyptic event — just the aftershocks of a society decimated by pure human greed.
Parasite is a stunning, terrifying tour de force that skewers the fucked-up atrocities of capitalism in a powerful, resonant and — above all — creative way. Toss in the sweeping string score of Jung Jae-il and a series of uniformly strong, sympathetic performances — including Choi Woo-shik as Ki-woo, Park So-dam as his ruthless sister Ki-jung, and Song Kang-ho and Cho Yeo-jeong as the charismatic but naive Parks — and you have a film that works on all levels to achieve its goals. Get ready for Parasite to usurp Snowpiercer's role as the movie that film bros cite when they talk about the horrors of inequality.