By Regina Vahey and Noelia Veras
Bong Joon-ho’s latest film, Parasite, was released in the United States on October 11, causing excitement in movie-goers and film critics alike. The film has been out in South Korea since late May of last year, winning a Palme d’Or almost as soon as it was released. Parasite is controversial and riveting, blending comedy and thriller into one while discussing many of the underlying social issues in South Korea.
The film opens with the Kim family in their semi-basement apartment attempting to connect to their neighbor’s WiFi. This initial glimpse into the lives of the family reveals much about their circumstances, with insects crawling around the laundry hung around the cramped space. Amidst the Kims’ struggle to keep their jobs folding boxes for a local pizza delivery chain, Ki-woo, the son of the family, meets with a friend who suggests he take over as an English tutor for the daughter of an affluent family, the Parks. Despite not being enrolled in university and not meeting any of the criteria for the position, Ki-woo takes the job. After Ki-woo’s first lesson with Park Da-hye, he learns of the family’s need for an art tutor for their son Da-song. Ki-woo brings his sister Ki-jeong to fulfill this role, but the brother-sister duo pretends that Ki-jeong is a distant relative’s friend named Jessica from Chicago. This is the beginning of the infiltration of the Kims into the Parks’ family dynamic. Ki-taek, the father of the Kim family, is the Park’s’ new driver, and Chung-sook, his wife, is the new housekeeper of the Park’s luxurious home. This seemingly symbiotic relationship between the Parks and the Kims is disturbed by a parasite that seeks to ruin both families.
Bong Joon-ho employs Parasite as a fresh interpretation of class allegory. The most obvious display of the class division being the material differences between the Kims and the Parks. Despite the monetary aspect of each family’s situation, Parasite shows the dysfunctions and real problems present in life. Bong’s masterful work also provokes the audience to dissect what caused the downfall of the relationship between the families. Was it the horrific reality that was underneath the house or the impact of extreme capitalism on the families.
Although Parasite was first commercially released in theaters in South Korea, its first screening before hitting theaters was at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival. The film’s rights were acquired by Neon in North America, Koch Films in Germany, The Jokers Films in France, and Bitters End in Japan. As of November 1 the film has grossed $5.7 million in the United States and Canada.
Bong is a South Korean director, producer, and screenwriter. He has made many films that also speak of class inequality and structural inequity. Some of his most popular films are Okja, Snowpiercer, The Host, and Mother. At age 50 he has won three Asian Film Awards, five Korean Film Awards, and five Blue Dragon Film Awards.
According to The Globe and Mail Parasite is, “an exhilarating and furious indictment of class struggle, Parasite might be the masterpiece South Korea’s Bong Joon-ho has been working toward his entire career.” Parasite has pushed countless boundaries, blazing a trail not just in Korea but in the world. The unique blend of genres and social commentary is seamless yet integral to the film. Audiences and critics are raving about it and the film itself holds a 99% approval on Rotten Tomatoes. Overall, the plot is shocking and eye-opening, making it a must-see film for people all over the world.