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Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Parasite movie review: A subtle and subversive depiction of class

Parasite movie review: Bong Joon-Ho, who has also co-written the story, has several surprises and twists up his sleeve. And many metaphors.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Written by Shalini Langer | New Delhi | Updated: February 10, 2020 10:20:19 am
Parasite review Parasite movie review: The Bong Joon-Ho film is very unsettling.

Parasite movie cast: Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam
Parasite movie director: Bong Joon-Ho
Parasite movie rating: 4 stars

Korean director Bong Joon Ho’s latest film, a top Oscar contender, is a subtle and subversive depiction of class. The setting is Korean, and Ho brings out that country’s obsession with America, English, North Korea and aspirations succinctly. But in depicting the many layers that divide, and blind, the rich from the poor, the poor from the rich, men from women, and husbands from wives, Parasite is universal. And very, very unsettling.

The rich are not all bad, and the poor not all good. However, it is in keeping up appearances, of both goodness and badness, and “not crossing the class line”, that we maintain what passes off as societal order. And so it is that the well-to-do Parks welcome into their house, one by one, an entire family who take up various jobs around their home without them being any wiser to what is happening. The husband (Ho-Song) takes no interest in running the household, the wife’s (Jo) worth lies in ensuring that he doesn’t have to. That everything from kids’ grades to their artistic talents, the cooking to the washing, even the hiring and the sacking, doesn’t demand any exertion from him.

The family they hire, the Kims, lives in a “semi-basement”, out of work but smart, ambitious and willing to cut corners to get ahead. The first to make his way into the Park home is Kevin (Choi), a smart man whose English can rival any university student’s but who is held back for lack of a degree. He is hired as the Park daughter’s tutor. He gets his sister (Park) in for the Park son, a little boy whose mother is convinced he has eccentric artistic talent. The sister, Jessica, convinces the Park wife that what her son’s scribblings actually indicate is childhood trauma, which “art therapy”, costing a little extra, will cure. Kim (a Ho favourite) comes in as the chauffeur and man about the Park house, and his wife ultimately as the housekeeper.

One night when the Parks are on a camping trip, Kim and family decide to have a nice little party at their home. They talk about how nice the Parks are, and whether it’s the money that makes them so, or whether it’s the fact that money means they are left with “no resentments”. Looking on at the front yard through large French windows, as a storm builds, they are imagining owning a house such as this, when their nightmare starts.

Ho, who has also co-written the story, has several surprises and twists up his sleeve. And many metaphors. About parasite, host. Upstairs, downstairs. Loyalty, love. Virtue, vice. Gutter, smell. Casual affluence, deliberate offence. Rain/sun for some, floods/heat for the other. And about the wool we pull over our eyes as we turn the other way, telling ourselves some lies to help us do that.

Ho strips that wool off, thread by thread. Right down to the only truth there is — not education, not degree, not work, but money.

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