By Andrew Rodden
As I walked into the only theater in Colorado Springs showing Bong Joon-ho’s bombastic drama-comedy-thrill- er movie “Parasite,” my expectations were through the roof, even though I had no idea what to expect. I knew it was about a family, the Kims, who do their best to leech off of the resources and lifestyle of the wealthy Park family, and that the film won this year’s highest honor at the Cannes film festival, but my knowledge of the film really boiled down to rumors and musings that claimed the 2019 release is easily one of the best movies of the decade. Of course, it is common practice to go into the theater without knowing much about the movie you bought tickets for, but I further implore readers to avoid as much information as you can about this movie before going to see it. Your experience will be monumentally elevated by doing so. The rumors and musings are so right: this movie is a must-watch, and it will surprise and delight at every twist and every turn.
The cinematic qualities of “Parasite” are some of the best I have ever experienced. The camera leads the viewer through the story, effectively contextualizing the characters within their spaces. The set and production design display the Park family and their interactions with the world in a clean, ’50s-television-show style. Their home feels inauthentic, like an exhibit in a natural history museum, and this artificiality is painfully juxtaposed by the lived-in semi-basement apartment in which the Kims exist. The actors — led by the entrancing Song Kang-ho as Kim Ki-Taek — convey their characters in an ‘I couldn’t take my eyes off of them’ kind of way.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this movie is its urgent discussion about class, particularly how people navigate the obstacles placed in their path by society at large. For instance, the Park family physically distinguishes themselves from the Kims by asserting a difference in their smell. There are moments where the Parks literally turn up their noses at the “poor person” smell of the Kims. This reflects a particular attitude toward those deemed inferior: their inferiority is inextricably linked to their physical being. This perspective is sickening and dangerous, and I believe it is what fuels the machine of wealth and power inequality within society. It also embodies a main theme of the film: one’s socioeconomic status is socially intended not to be breached, and to attempt a jump up leads to life-altering consequences.
Every frame of “Parasite” felt fresh. Bong Joon-ho was able to make this movie uniquely his own by employing his exciting style of moviemaking. Every moment creates a new layer and each gets better than the last. Not a single beat is wasted, and every clip is exploited for its full thematic potential. There are not even any “meh” moments in the movie. Everything is interconnected, the story is seamless, and the vision is singular. I’m envious of future film students who get to write their Film Studies 101 papers on this movie, as there is not a single point in the film where you cannot unpack engaging cinematographic and thematic content.
I cannot find a flaw in this movie. When you expend the raw effort it takes to fill each and every frame with such juicy and exciting content, and fill each character with charm and charisma and sadness and pain, you remove any available room for error. This is exactly what Joon-ho accomplished with “Parasite,” and I am excited to see what he has in store for us in the future.
If I wasn’t hitting you over the head with my trusty “recommendation mallet” before, allow me to square up my aim and take another swing: GO SEE THIS FILM.