Why Parasite will burrow under your skinby James Robins
directed by Bong Joon-ho
The South Korean director's tragicomedy sees a grifter family’s mad get-rich-quick plan come unstuck.
At the heart of this pitch-black baroque comedy is a family of grifters impossible not to like. From their sub-basement flat, they plan an audacious and elaborate con. Their target is a wealthy clan that in many ways is their mirror: husband, wife, son, daughter. But what they fail to realise is that no matter how low your position, there will always be someone worse off than you.
George Orwell once pointed out that the impassable barrier between classes wasn’t just economic or cultural, but something far more visceral: “The lower classes smell,” he wrote. “That was what we were taught.” Whether deliberate or not, Bong deploys this observation many times over to withering ends – a clue that will give away the family’s secrets and provoke violent moments.
The story mutates constantly, growing ever more horrifying (and ever more tragic) with each iteration, subverting expectations all the way. Unlike Bong’s previous class-warfare allegory Snowpiercer, Parasite’s central criticism is shrouded in doubt, likely to inspire anguished debate about its meaning. But still, it is a film as thrilling as it is hilarious, and as insane as it is real.
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Video: Madman Films
This article was first published in the July 6, 2019 issue of the New Zealand Listener.
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