By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
Congratulations to Bong Joon-ho for taking home four awards at the 92nd Academy Awards! This dark comedy deserves all the wins. The use of classical background music gives more than a change of atmosphere to the South Korean character drama. Ultimately, I feel it’s a Shakespearean play that constantly shifts genres. Just how this film ends, it’s tough not to feel for the main protagonist.
The scholars rock is a macguffin which kept me curious about when it becomes important to driving this tale forward. It can mean anything. For a moment I wondered if it’s a philosopher’s stone, a transformative device. When the last film I saw from this director includes Snowpiercer and Okja, I knew he’s not going to make this change come easy. When this story is about the lower class infiltrating the home of a wealthier clan and watching how they feed off each other, the importance is with who holds the power instead.
The Kim clan is led by Ki-taek Kim (Song Kang-ho). Nobody is really doing well, not even Chung-sook (Jang Hye-jin), Ki-jung (Park So-dam) and Ki-woo (Choi Woo-Shik). When Ki-woo’s wealthy friend Min-hyuk gifts them a this stone, supposedly imbued with magical properties, just what happens next is with how they pretend to be skilled workers when they are not–just so they can work at the Park home.
Social anxiety is at the core of this tale, and to help understand this film more, the home release includes a Q&A with Joon-Ho from Fantastic Fest. With no surprise, the question about why make a film about people living according to their economic status is asked, and John gives a terrific answer. As for why this stratification continues to exist, that’s up to society to fight against rather than settle upon unconditionally. The entertainment value is overshadowed by the parable this movie represents.
The twists and turns the narrative makes, without spoiling, are a not really much of a surprise. Parasite is just as much of a soap opera as it is a tragedy on the rise and fall of the Kim family. As for whether a continuation can happen, I say its not likely.
5 Stars out of 5
This movie is now available on home video at a video store near you, and streaming services like Amazon.