- Film & TV
- 19 Feb 20
Excoriating tragicomedy about class and social inequality
From his opening shots, Bong Joon-Ho establishes the upstairs/downstairs dynamic of his razorsharp, bleakly funny, unmistakably furious skewering of capitalism and class divides. We meet the Kim family living in a purgatory-like half-basement apartment in South Korea; a damp, infested, claustrophobic structure that’s firmly below the ground, but with street-level windows that cruelly tease a higher level of living.
The family is scrambling to survive, but son Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik) is offered the chance to replace a friend as the tutor for student Da-hae (Jung Ziso), the daughter of the wealthy Park family. The job offer arises for patronising reasons: Ki-woo’s friend wants to date Da-hae, and believes poor, unsophisticated Ki-woo won’t pose any romantic competition for him. But soon, the entire Kim family begin to infiltrate the Parks’ home, posing as unrelated workers – a child’s art therapist, a new housekeeper, a driver.
The Kims begin to settle into life in the Park house – notably elevated and spacious, set atop staircases and behind security fences – like cuckoos in a very privileged nest. But soon the story of two families from different classes reveals another lurking underneath. And this revelation creates a bleak and bloody pandemonium underscored by a bitter truth: the class system and the Sisyphean lie of aspiration can make monsters of us all.
Parasite is filled with acidic humour, entertaining shocks and brilliant performances, but what is so insidious is how politely the Parks assert their dominance and strip their staff of their humanity. “I can’t stand people who cross the line,” the Park patriarch says repeatedly – all while demanding his driver work past his shift, denying a long-term employee an explanation for their dismissal, and assuming that giving a person money eliminates their right to selfhood.
“What’s your plan?” the Kim family ask each other throughout this fanged exploration of the protection of the wealthy, systemic abuse of workers, and the dehumanising force of capitalism.
Directed by Bong Joon-Ho. Written by Bong Joon-Ho and Han Jin-Wan. Song Kang-ho, Choi Woo-shik, Lee Sun-kyun, Park So-dam, Cho Yeo-jeong, Lee Jung-eun. 131 mins.