Parasite

Film Review: Parasite

Cast and Director 

Director – Bon Joon-Ho (Snowpiercer, The Host, Okja)

  • Song Kang-ho as Kim Ki-taek (Mr Kim; 김기택; Gim Gitaek), the father of the Kim family who is hired as Park Dong-ik’s chauffeur.
  • Choi Woo-shik as Kim Ki-woo (Kevin; 김기우; Gim Giu), the son of the Kim family who is hired as Da-hye’s English tutor. Choi Woo-shik stated that the character is intelligent but does not have the vigour needed to succeed in examinations.[10]
  • Lee Sun-kyun as Park Dong-ik (Nathan; 박동익; Bak Dongik), the father of the Park family.
  • Cho Yeo-jeong as Choi Yeon-gyo (Madame; 최연교; Choe Yeongyo), the mother of the Park family.
  • Park So-dam as Kim Ki-jung (Jessica; 김기정; Gim Gijeong), the daughter of the Kim family who is hired as Da-song’s art therapist.
  • Lee Jung-eun as Gook Moon-gwang (국문광; Guk Mungwang), the housekeeper for the Park family, who also worked for the architect and previous owner of the house. Bong Joon-ho said her relationship with the architect and parts of her story “that happen in between the sequences in the film” will be explored in the spin-off television series.[11]
  • Jang Hye-jin as Chung-sook (박충숙; Bak Chungsuk), the mother of the Kim family who is hired as the housekeeper for the Park family.
  • Park Myung-hoon as Oh Geun-sae (오근세; O Geunse), Moon-gwang’s husband.
  • Jung Ji-so as Park Da-hye (박다혜; Bak Dahye), the daughter of the Park family.
  • Jung Hyeon-jun as Park Da-song (박다송; Bak Dasong), the son of the Park family.
  • Park Keun-rok as Yoon (윤; Yun), Park Dong-ik’s chauffeur.
  • Park Seo-joon as Min-hyuk (민혁; Minhyeok), Ki-woo’s friend.[12]

Pre-production

  • Much of the script is based on Bon Joon Ho’s script for a play that he had written in 2013.
  • The film was inspired by the Christine and Lea Papin incident in 1930, where two live-in maids murdered their employers. The case became a debating point for intellectuals at the time, with the idea being that the women had acted due to exploitation of the workers (being forced to work 14 hour days, 7 days a week). This was made into a 1960 Korean film called The Housemaid.
  • The title has a double meaning – it refers to both the poor feeding off the wealthy and abusing their home, but also of the wealthy exploiting the poor and living off their labours.
  • The film makes several nods to Alfred Hitchcock throughout. Stairs are used as a motif, voyeurism is used as characters watch scenes through windows 14 times, and (most obviously) there is a brief glimpse of an out of place Alfred Hitchcock collection in the Parks’ home.

Plot

The Kim family—father Ki-taek, mother Chung-sook, daughter Ki-jung, and son Ki-woo—live in a small semi-basement apartment (banjiha) in Seoul, have low-paying temporary jobs folding pizza boxes, and struggle to make ends meet. University student Min-hyuk, a friend of Ki-woo’s, gives the family a scholar’s rock meant to promise wealth. Leaving to study abroad and knowing his friend needs the income, he suggests that Ki-woo pose as a university student to take over his job as an English tutor for the daughter of the wealthy Park family, Da-hye. Ki-woo, pretending to be a Yonsei University student, is subsequently hired by the Parks.

The Kim family schemes to get each member of the family a job by posing as unrelated and highly qualified workers to become servants of the Parks. Ki-jung poses as “Jessica” and, using Ki-Woo as a reference, becomes an art therapist to the Parks’ young son, Da-song. Ki-jung frames Yoon, Mr Park’s chauffeur, by making it appear as if he had sex in the car, then recommends Ki-taek to replace him. Finally, Chung-sook takes over as the Parks’ housekeeper after the Kims exploit the peach allergy of the long-time housekeeper, Moon-gwang, to convince Mrs Park that she has tuberculosis. Ki-woo begins a secret romantic relationship with Da-hye.

When the Parks leave on a camping trip, the Kims revel in the luxuries of the residence before Moon-gwang abruptly appears at the door, telling Chung-sook she left something in the basement. She enters a hidden entrance to an underground bunker created by the architect and previous homeowner, where Moon-gwang’s husband, Geun-sae, has been secretly living for over four years, hiding from loan sharks. Chung-sook refuses Moon-gwang’s pleas to help Geun-sae remain in the bunker, but the eavesdropping Kims accidentally reveal themselves. Moon-gwang films them on her phone and threatens to expose their ruse to the Parks.

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A severe rainstorm brings the Parks home early, and the Kims scramble to clean up the home and subdue Moon-gwang and Geun-sae before they return. The Kims trap Geun-sae and Moon-gwang in the bunker. Mrs Park reveals to Chung-sook that Da-song had a seizure-inducing traumatic experience on a previous birthday, when he saw a “ghost” — actually Geun-sae — emerging from the basement at night. Before the Kims manage to sneak out of the house, they hear Mr Park’s off-handed comments about Ki-taek’s smell. The Kims find their apartment flooded with sewer water as a result of the severe rainstorm and are forced to shelter in a gymnasium with other displaced people.

The next day, Mrs Park hosts a house party for Da-song’s birthday with the Kim family’s help. Ki-woo enters the bunker with the scholar’s rock to find Geun-sae. Finding Moon-gwang has died from a concussion she received during the earlier fight, he is attacked by a deranged Geun-sae, who bludgeons his head with the rock and escapes, leaving Ki-woo lying in a pool of blood at the entrance to the basement. Seeking to avenge Moon-gwang, Geun-sae stabs Ki-jung with a kitchen knife in front of the horrified party guests. Da-song suffers another seizure upon seeing Geun-sae, and a struggle breaks out until Chung-sook fatally impales Geun-sae with a barbecue skewer. While Ki-taek tends to a severely bleeding Ki-jung, Mr Park orders Ki-taek to drive Da-song to the hospital. In the chaos, Ki-taek, upon seeing Mr Park’s disgusted reaction to Geun-sae’s smell, angrily kills him with the knife. Ki-taek then flees the scene, leaving the rest of the Kim family behind.

Weeks later, Ki-woo is recovering from brain surgery. He and Chung-sook are convicted of fraud and put on probation. Ki-jung is revealed to have died from her injuries, and Ki-taek, wanted by the police for Mr Park’s murder, cannot be found. Geun-sae has been assumed to be an insane homeless man, and neither his nor Ki-taek’s motive for the stabbings are known. Ki-woo spies on the Parks’ home, now occupied by a German family unaware of its history, and sees a message in Morse code from a flickering light. Ki-taek, who escaped into the bunker via the garage, has buried Moon-gwang in the backyard and now raids the kitchen at night and sends the message every day, hoping Ki-woo will see it. Still living in their original basement apartment with his mother, Ki-woo writes a letter to Ki-taek, vowing to earn enough money to one day purchase the house and reunite with his father.

Filming

  • The film was filmed between May and September of 2019 in just 77 days.
  • The entire Park home is an elaborate set. Joon-Ho imagined it as a universe within the film, with layer upon layer to be explored.
  • Lee Ha-Jun (production designer) designed the set with the necessary camera movements and reveals in mind. Everything above the first floor was added in post-production.
  • The house is divided by sharp lines that try and further illustrate the divide between the families. 

Impact & Legacy

  •  The film would win the Palm D’orr at Cannes in 2019 and would go on to win four Academy awards the following year  Nominated for six Academy Awards (2020). It won four: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best international Feature. It was also nominated for Best Film Editing and Best Production Design, but did not win in those categories.
  • A black and white version of the film is available. Bon Joon-Ho and cinematographer Hong Kyung-pyo oversaw the transfer.
  • Holds a Rotten Tomatoes score of 99% which is insane.
  • Made on a $15.5 million budget, the film had a world-wide gross of $263 million
  • HBO have commissioned a spin-off series, also called Parasite. It will be overseen by Bong Joon-Ho and Adam McKay (Anchorman, The Big Short, Vice, Don’t Look Up) It will be a six-part series examining ‘stories happening in between the sequences of the film).

Facts & Trivia

  •  Bong Joon-Ho has been very clear that the ending is a fantasy that can never be realised.
  • The set that the Kim family home was built on was also a huge water tank for the flooding scenes.
  • The song at the end of the film is called “A Glass of Soju” but was originally called “564 Years” as this is how long it would have taken Ki-Woo to earn enough money to buy the house.
  • The scholar stone is meant to represent both the hope for upward mobility but also the burden and weight of carrying such hopes.
  • Ki-woo’s job, at-home tutor, was chosen because director Bong Joon Ho realised that sadly the job is the only way that families from two extreme ends of the class spectrum in modern-day South Korea can cross their paths convincingly in the story arc.
  • According to editor Jinmo Yang, he edited the film in Final Cut Pro 7 – an editing program that Apple stopped supporting in 2011, on a computer that hasn’t had a software update since 2014. He received an Oscar nomination for his work.
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