Parasite is one of the most interesting movies that came out last year, one that, given its limited release in Theaters, I wasn’t expecting to see. Ever since its release, the movie has been growing from strength to strength, thanks to strong word-of-mouth from audience, and excellent reviews throughout in the critic circles. Directed by Bong Joo-hoo, whose excellent Snowpiercer (2013), has more than one point in common with Parasite, this is one of the absolute best movies of last year.
It tells the story of a struggling Southkorean family who live huddled together in a below-street-level tiny apartment. None of the family members has a job that pays well, and they’ve learned to hustle and scrape their living through a string of bad paid part-time jobs that barely help them get by. The family is comprised of both parents and two young siblings, who due to their combined low-income, have been forced to forego their University studies. Opportunity presents itself when a friend of the family, a University student, tells the young son that he’s gonna be away for a while because of his studies, and wants his young friend to take over him as English tutor to the daughter of a very well-off family, who live in the rich part of town. On his friend’s good word-of-mouth, and an English title forged by his sister, the young boy ingratiates himself with the family, and soon enough will find a way to bring in his sister, masquerading as an Art Psychologist for the family’s rebellious little son. It is, in this fashion, that little by little, the entire family work their way into the rich family’s household using morally dubious, and pretty unsavoury tactics to replace the household’s stuff. But there is one more surprise in store for the family that no one was counting on. With huge doses of black comedy, the movie is an apt tale about how far ordinary people are willing to go, in order to not only improve their social status, but also to remain there once achieved. Roles are flipped more often than not, when we learned that, who we thought to be the victims of the story, are not as clear cut as we thought them to be. In a cutthroat society as the one we live in, it’s no surprise the lengths people will go to, to secure economic position. In the end, it’s all for naught, as those above us, that fabled society’s 15 % rich, will always stay on top of the food chain. There are ample visual references contrasting both families’ way of living, going back and forth between the slums where the protagonists live, and the rich part of town, where the rich family live. One is built in an haphazard fashing, to fit in as many people as possible, with no decent facilities or drainage system; the other neighbourhood is built on top of a hill, with state of the art facilities and drainage system. This reference will come into play later on in the movie, in a scene that will be the catalyst of what’s to ensue in the last act of the movie. Likewise, through carefully placed lines of dialogue throughout the movie, we also get a sense of the social, and cultural divide between both families. The patriarch of the family makes some rather cruel comments about the way the ”other half” lives, and smells. As I said, not as clear cut as we might think. Even though the rich family has an outlook of pleasantness and kindness about them, the manner in which most of the time they will deal with the family protagonist, is rather condescending, and callous. The twist halfway through the movie is yet more proof of the level is self-depravation most people have to go through in life just to keep on breathing. Food for thought, and a cruel, but at the same time, wickedly funny tale about the limits of Humanity’s self preservation.
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