“Parasite” presents a masterclass of cinematic craft


Public Domain

The cast of parasite, while small, conveyed an incredible performance spanning complex themes.

By now, you’ve almost certainly heard about the international spectacle of “Parasite”. The Washington Post called it “enlightening,” while the Wall Street Journal called it, simply, “a masterpiece.” Even the agency that believes it is the end all of movie reviews despite only sampling one type of moviegoer, Rotten Tomatoes, gave it a Certified Fresh review of 99%. But I assure you that no number of descriptive adjectives from the words of well known reviewers can possibly explain the brilliance of this film.

Let me get one thing straight: “Parasite”’s excellence was in no way surprising. Director Bong Joon-ho’s portfolio includes some of the 21st century’s most well-crafted films. But “Parasite” is simply a whole new level above the aforementioned. The film redefines what an all-time great movie should look like and is one of the most fantastic films in a decade.

“Parasite” is the story of a family from the lowest levels of poverty in Korea. Kim Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho) lives with his wife Chung-sook (Jang Hye-jin) and their son Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik) and daughter Ki-jeong (Park So-dam) in a basement apartment. Barely making ends meet, they flounder to find their next source of income. After a recommendation, Ki-woo is hired by the mother of a rich family, Yeon-kyo (Cho Yeo-jeong), to be the tutor of the attractive young Da-hye.

Wishing to extract even more money through work, the family works with deception to convince the family to hire more and more help until their whole family is employed.

As the action develops, the film really begins to come into its own. “Parasite” is a modern example of class tensions reaching a boiling point. Throughout the film, the audience can clearly see Ki-taek devolving a serious hatred each time he hears Mr. Park disparage the poor working-class. The film provides an example of one of the more nuclear responses to such hatred: outright murder. Essentially, “Parasite” shows us a small-scale proletarian revolt, if you will.

But the presentation of class conflict in “Parasite” is much more nuanced than classic Marxist revolutionary theory. The movie deals with what seems like perfectly kind and humane treatment from the rich family to the poor one, yet clearly identifies to the viewer one fundamental truth of this interaction: It is all a lie. Sure, the movie argues, it may seem genuine, but the backbone of this interaction is oppressive and exploitatitive.

“Parasite” is, of course, much more than a silver-screen manifesto. It is the most completely developed movie that I have seen in years and, barring maybe The Godfather Part II, probably ever. The writing and dialogue was Shakespearean, the cinematography echoed that of psuedo-two dimensional wizard Wes Anderson (behind movies such as The Grand Budapest Hotel and Moonrise Kingdom), the suspense felt Spielbergian, the music was as masterful as John Williams’ scoring of the Star Wars Saga, and every object, line, silence, and movement had a purpose that felt profound, creative and necessary. Yet, somehow “Parasite” seemed even greater than the sum of its parts and left me with an intangible feeling that was simply the greatest film ever made.

One of the most surprising achievements of “Parasite” is its comedy. Despite delving into the land of Drama-thrillers towards the end, the movie is hilarious for most of its duration. This, I believe, is one of the most impressive feats that Bong Joon-ho was able to accomplish. Creating a complex world that makes a profound statement about inequality and leaves the audience dumbfounded in its greatness? That’s hard, sure. But making that same film comedic? Now that’s just impossible. Or, was.

Even though the movie was entirely in Korean and set in Korea, “Parasite” did not fall victim to the same trap that that so many foreign films fall into: feeling isolated. “Parasite” could easily have been set in New York City, Tokyo, Shanghai or Berlin and it would have kept its brilliance. However, the foreign setting was useful in illuminating to American audiences one key truth: That horrible inequality that they see their politicians angry about on TV? That’s happening everywhere.

By creating a world that is aesthetically stunning as well as thematically complex, Bong Joon-ho elevates not only foreign but all cinema with his latest work, a bar that I will wholeheartedly be excited for someone to jump.