Director Bong Joon Ho said ,”Parasite is a comedy without a clown and a tragedy without a villain”. He calls Parasite his ‘stairway movie’(which explains the several glissandi). The plot is undulating- it moves upwards and downwards- exploring every rung on the societal ladder. It made history by becoming the first non-English movie to win the Big Picture award at the Oscars. Bong always said,”If you overcome the one inch barrier of subtitles ,you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.”
We’re introduced to two families on opposite ends of the socio-economic spectrum-the Kim family(headed by father Ki Taek, mother Chung Soo, daughter Ki Jung and son Ki Woo) in their semi basement home where they have no Wi-Fi connection, resembling their lack of belonging and connectivity to the rest of the world, and the Park family that lives in one of the architectural wonders of Seoul, above the common folk, serenaded by birds and surrounded by trees. The Kims may have lived in a cockroach infested, sewage flooded slum ,but they were a lot more united and shrewd than the naive Parks. They wriggled their way into a world of excess which they never had access to. Was Ki Jung (Jessica) really an art therapist? Was Ki Woo(Kevin) really an English tutor? No. They were just ambitious youngsters trying to make place for themselves in this over-competitive world ,which eventually turned them into parasites-clinging onto the exquisite and gullible Park family for their sustenance. In the fenced Park mansion ,the incognito Kims felt affluent. They got a break from their tiring world of struggle and immersed themselves into leeching onto wealth and luxury.
In the first half, we see the Kims’ ingenious scheme unfurl piece by piece, as they manoeuvre themselves onto the upper rungs of the societal ladder easily, perhaps way too easily. Perfectly accompanying the movie’s mysterious and nail-biting scenes are the magnificently modulated tunes which range from sombre piano pieces to the spine tingling violin glissandi which Jung Jaeil (the music composer) uses to hint at what lies within. Bong’s speciality is throwing in a subplot and bamboozling the audience with something unimagined as he morphs the movie into something else all together.
The strips on the eyes of the characters on the movie poster symbolise that brutal capitalism has created many families like the Kims and Parks ,who readily sacrifice their integrity and identity to enjoy luxury. The Kims constantly switch between their crowded and uncomfortable life and the easygoing one of the Parks. This contrast is visually stimulating without ever calling attention to itself.
The social message in ‘Parasite’ is very strong, but it still can’t be referred to as a didactic movie. There is a reason why the Kims have an apartment underground. They get sandwiched between two worlds and get so consumed by the economic inequality that they resort to Machiavellian methods. Towards the end, we all find ourselves in a huge mess of mayhem, rage, blood and shame as we struggle to find out who the real parasite is in this world of sham and drudgery.
Bong always uses metaphors as his metier ,which explains why he chose ‘Parasite’ to be the name of his movie. Is it the Kim family as they try to con themselves into a world they would never fit in otherwise? Is it the Park family where everything for them is a walk in the park while the poor give up their blood and sweat to survive each day? Or is it brutal capitalism that has turned our lives into a rat race, which leaves majority of the population stuck underground while only few are able to come out to see the sunlight?
- Tanisha Agarwal.