"Parasite" is a golden monument to storytelling
As the viewer, you'll notice the humanity within everyone, but also find it hard to empathize with any single character. This is the brilliance of the narrative: all people are to blame.
Bong Joon-Ho’s “Parasite” is a kaleidoscope of a film. It fuses every genre you can possibly think of together into something so unique it’s almost unrecognizable, and at first glance, unapproachable. To call it intimidating would be an understatement; it’s a piece of untouched land, and exploring it will call to question the mechanisms of society, culture, and human division. The result is such a violent punch to the gut, the only way to process it is to step back and let yourself simmer. So, here we are, weeks after my initial viewing, and I think I’ve finally found a way to break it down. The film, for lack of a better, more deserving phrase, is a golden monument to storytelling.
The best way to describe “Parasite” is to compare it to Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” (2017); however, instead of providing a comedic autopsy of racial segregation, “Parasite” focuses on class divide. Joon-Ho has found a way to methodically break down and examine an entire system of wealth inequality, and in doing so, raise awareness of this separation and poke fun at its imbalance. More so, he has created an arsenal of characters who are not inherently good nor evil. People are simply people, and they have their positive qualities and a whole slew of negative ones. It’s what makes them flesh and blood, and not just archetypes of poor and rich communities.
This is a character study, but with broad strokes. As the viewer, you'll notice the humanity within everyone, but also find it hard to empathize with any single character. This is the brilliance of the narrative: all people are to blame. Blame for what, you might be asking? That's for you to find out.
“Parasite” presents one clear question: who serves who? If everyone has their share of good and bad qualities, who do you root for? Joon-Ho is demonstrating that money actually means nothing, and instead, the people who have connections are the true rulers of society. But this reading is one of many. In fact, the film doesn’t present an answer to its central question. That’s what makes it so, so worth your attention.
The core of “Parasite” is to reflect on real-world division, but the shell that holds it together is not a bleak affair, despite the darker themes at play. I’d be hard-pressed to place this film in one particular genre – I might even go as far as to say it’s genre-less. Some moments are terrifying, others are sad, and some are so funny you’ll have to pause the film and catch your breath before continuing. But with these tonal switches, there are no jarring transitions, nor are there any tangled plot lines. The quick-changing genres work because the film isn’t trying to be anything that it’s not; the story allows for it. And because the script is mimicking our real world, emotions and attitudes must change sporadically for it to seem actual. How Joon-Ho is able to accomplish this, however, is something on a whole other level. It’s a masterful way of storytelling that only few possess.
With this in mind, the film, while a portrait of modern-day class division, is more of a caricature. Society is exaggerated, but not in a way to distance you from what is real, but to smartly depict the idiocy. Without giving anything away, “Parasite” sprinkles elements of the fantastic into its living, breathing world, and gives every frame a distinct hue. It’s fascinating to see how a basement can become its own world, independent from the rest of a house; how a kitchen can transform into a nightmarish landscape; and how quickly a car will transition from safe haven to enemy territory with just a few spoken words. Again, this is Joon-Ho’s masterful storytelling at work, and it goes to show that every pixel serves a purpose. He uses a steady, obsessively precise hand to create a story that transcends art. It’s a living painting – one that’s beautiful, tragic, and at points, beyond understanding.
- Final Thoughts -
There is no right way to exist in our world, in our reality, and that’s what “Parasite” is proving once and for all. Those who believe they have somehow beaten the system have actually fallen victim to it, and no amount of money, power, or connections can change that. Bong Joon-Ho is aware of this, and after watching “Parasite” you will be too.
("Parasite" image courtesy of Collider)