Saturday, February 08, 2020

Parasite – a glorious class struggle flooded with satire, horror and visual delight

Parasites feed off their hosts for nutrition and survival. The titular metaphor applies to the Kim family who inveigle themselves into the employ of a tech CIO’s home, taking advantage of their talent at roleplay and a mother’s naivety and gullibility in order to take over as chauffeur, housekeeper and the children’s tutors. But the beautiful house holds a secret that upsets the Kims’ parasitic idyll and more than one leeching beast ultimately spills blood.

Imaginative and entrepreneurial Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik) and his audacious sister Ki-jeong (Park So-dam) live in a squalid basement flat, stealing free wifi from neighbours and making money where they can. Together with their no-nonsense Mum, Chung-sook (Chang Hyae-jin), and beautifully sarcastic if impractical father Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho), they form a strong family unit that prises open the defences of the affluent Park family.

This South Korean masterpiece from director Bong Joon-ho begins as a class struggle before widening its ambitions to examine how the rich also rely on and destroy their employees. The expansive glass in the Park’s open plan living space enjoys views of the well-kept garden and frames the heavy deluges of rain. Contrast that with the single high-level window in the Kim’s subterranean flat that celebrates a view of urinating drunks heading home. Steps and stairs emphasise the upstairs/downstairs and well-to-do/down-at-heel nature of society and conveys the sense that the wealthy flood the poor with their waste.

The clues about the pests inhabiting the home are picked up by the sensitive and wholly misunderstood Park children. This isn’t the only gloriously satisfying element of Joon-ho’s Parasite. His confident swing from satire into horror and back to comedy is as assured and steady as Ki-taek’s driving through the busy streets. Jaeil Jung’s orchestral score is rich and swells in all the right moments before fading back into the mix when the tense action can speak for itself. The attention to detail across the sets (there’s a bathroom you’ll not forget in a hurry) and the humorous nuances of each main character make Parasite a real gem.

What feels like an overly-bloody denouement deserving of the end credits is swiftly followed by a somewhat predictable twist and then a rather fantastical turn that attempts to round up the morality tale. As a device, it doesn’t quite hold water, but no harm is done to the quality of the previous two hours of cinema.

Parasite is an exciting, well-executed tale being screened at the Queen’s Film Theatre. This afternoon’s matinee screening sold out so booking is recommended.

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