A look at Parasite (MA 15+)
We’ve seen a few South Korean epics lately and this one from director Bong Joon-Ho rates as one of the very best.
There’s no question that South Korea stands securely as a First World nation, but just like others such as Australia, the United States and every European nation the class divide is ever present.
So it is with Seoul as Joon-Ho shows us the structural inequity between the very, very rich and the people on the bread line – or below.
Unemployed driver Kim Ki-taek (Song Kang-Ho) lives in a basement hovel with his wife and teenage children: a boy and a girl. They steal wi-fi for their mobile phones from the coffee shop nearby standing on chairs to reach the ceiling for reception, fold pizza boxes for a pittance and leave their windows open when the street above their tiny dwelling is being fumigated. And why do they leave the windows open? Because the fumigation will help clean out their ever-present cockroaches and other vermin.
The son Kim Ki-Woo (Choi Swoo-sik) has a chance to earn some real money when a friend, who is tutoring a rich teenage girl, leaves for an overseas holiday. He recommends Kim try and take his place.
Kim’s sister forges some very passable academic documents, Kim is accepted by the wealthy Park family although he changes his name to ‘Kevin’ so that tracking down his false papers could prove difficult.
Mrs Park (Cho Yeo-jeong) is trusting and sweet but rather dotty. With her housekeeper she’s the only adult home to look after her teenage daughter and hard-to-manage younger son. Of course the teenager falls for Kevin who manages to convince Mrs Park that he knows a perfect art tutor for the young boy. It’s his sister, naturally. She changes her name, also, and becomes ‘Jessica’. So almost immediately two members of the impoverished family are ensconced in the huge Park mansion in the hills above Seoul.
But the family involvement doesn’t end there. Kevin and Jessica convince Mrs Park that they know of a perfect replacement for her housekeeper so within a very short period their Mum is inside the Park mansion, as well.
Corporate tycoon Mr Park (Lee Sun-Kyun) needs a driver so who better than Dad (Kim Ki-taek) to take over, After all, he has unquestionable driving skills. It’s the young son of the Park household who sounds the first alert. He asks his mother and sister had they noticed The Smell. Apparently in the two Koreas an unmistakeable funk-like body odour accompanies the very poor from the ghettoes wherever they go.
Even though Kim Ki-taek’s family change their laundry detergent the odour remains.
Mr Park even gags once or twice in the car when being driven by the senior Kim. And the young boy not only has a good nose he’s spotted something else. He refers to it as ‘the ghost’ and we don’t know until the closing third of the film that the Parks – like all wealthy South Koreans – have a missile-proof bunker below their enormous pantry.
Who’s living right beneath their feet?
Everything comes to a head when the Parks head off for a ‘glamping’ family holiday.
That allows the whole impoverished worker family to sit in the vast living room, eating and imbibing as if they were celebrating in their own house.
Unfortunately it’s monsoon time and the rain comes teeming down. So Mrs. Park dials up her housekeeper to tell her they’re returning home and to prepare a special beef and noodle dish.
But the former housekeeper had arrived unexpectedly an hour or two before the Parks got home and there’d been a whole set of nasty interactions between her, the denizen of the bunker and the other Kim family members.
The whole thing comes to a climax the next day when Mrs Park stages a birthday party for her son. Knives and other stabbing implements are unsheathed and the two families clash outside on the lush green lawns.