Illustrated by Michael Shum
“You know what kind of plan never fails? No plan. No plan at all. You know why? Because life cannot be planned,” says Ki taek, the father of the Kim family, in Parasite. The world wasn’t expecting this provoking movie, but, just like the quote, it sure didn’t fail us.
Parasite (기생충) is an Oscar-winning black comedy thriller directed by Bong Joon-ho. To put simply, it shows clashes between two contrasting families: the impoverished Kim family and the wealthy Park family. Not only does this movie have a thrilling plot twist, but afterward its examination of class and inequality in modern society lingers.
From the great Kim family’s forgery to the heart-wrenching morse code scenes, there is no doubt Parasite is a completely thought out film. While watching this movie, I too laughed and related to many of the one-liners. Some quotes that are highly recognized: “Wow, does Seoul University have a major in document forgery? Ki-jeong would be top of her class!”
Even though Parasite is unquestionably a film worth watching, I couldn’t stop thinking about why this particular film had so much recognition. Out of all the Korean movies I’ve watched, with lovable, funny characters and a dynamic storyline, why this particular film?
“When I first watched it, I thought that the Kim family were the parasites, but then after thinking about it, I realized that the Park family could also be the parasites who thrive off of the cheap labor of the Kims,” said Laura Park (10). “Seeing parallels like that in the film were super interesting and I think it just reflects what an amazing movie it is.”
“I think part of the reason this film won so many awards is that it is a deeply relevant movie that was expertly crafted and executed, eventually gathering enough momentum to win the Oscar for Best Picture,” said Knoton Fung (10).
Laura added, “ Nowadays, people are becoming a lot more aware and open to including a diverse range of films in their awards. I think that this film came at the right time, because if it came out maybe 20 years ago, it wouldn’t have received the recognition that it deserves.”
The movie received a lot of love for mainly two reasons. First, the execution of the film, the storyline and its aesthetics, and the second, the relatable and/or complex characters. I asked fellow students about their favorite parts of the movie, and many pointed to individual characters, scenes, and montages.
Josh Kim (9) said, “ My favorite character was Ki-Jeong (daughter of the Kim family). Not only did she have incredible skills in art and forgery, but she was also extremely manipulative and calculating, which she showed in the first sequence in the Park family’s house.”
“The sequence when the dad and kids of the Kim family use the peach fuzz to fire the current housemaid by making her look like she had a contagious illness so well thought out, it was so good,” explained Laura.
“One scene, in particular, that was memorable to me was the final sequence in which Ki-woo writes about how he’ll save up the money to buy the house and free his father, and for a brief moment, there is a glimmer of hope that the story will conclude happily,” Knoton said. “However, it is revealed the sequence in which Ki-woo can be seen buying the house and freeing his father is simply a dream and that, in reality, it most certainly will not happen, casting the story in a much darker light.”
As someone who’s used to seeing Western and Hollywood films getting a lot of attention and press, it was a pleasant surprise to see a Korean movie win Best Picture at the Oscars.
“It is incredibly inspiring to watch these fellow Koreans seen in the same light as famous directors and pop megastars of the western world,” explained Josh.
However, there of course exists no perfect movie. Josh said, “I wanted the Park family members to be more developed. Throughout the movie, I felt they were portrayed as too shallow. Unfortunately, my first impressions of them were also my last.”
For those who haven’t watched Parasite yet, Knoton explains why he recommends it. “Watching these morally ambiguous characters struggle to climb up the social ladder, only to be knocked down in a stunning twist that no one saw coming was deeply entertaining, and in my opinion, spending the 2h 12m to watch this movie definitely would not be a waste of time.”
In the words of a critic from Empire, Parasite is “a riotous social satire that’s as gloriously entertaining as it is deeply sardonic.” If you’d enjoy watching a tense and suspenseful yet genuinely hilarious movie, give Parasite a chance.