If you’re in the mood for an intelligent, unconventional thriller of sorts, get out on the town and treat yourself to Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite. Come for the promise of nail biting class tension, struggle and all-out war, but stay for the interpersonal relationships, architectural allegories and shocking scares that emerge over the course of Bong Joon Ho’s latest film.
The film is essentially about class relationships, yes, but unlike some recent (American) films that try to tackle the subject, the dynamic between the rich and poor isn’t cut-and-dried black and white. Parasite doesn’t just look at the poor as hopelessly depressed and the rich as cruel and greedy. The well-to-do in this film are moderately benevolent, living their own lives and oblivious to the destitute conditions of their hired help. Though we might cheer on the impoverished Kim family, they seem borderline sociopathic at times (most likely exacerbated by economic circumstances outside their control). We see the Kims pitted against a worse-off family and tensions escalate.
That the Kims don’t register that they have common interests with the other family isn’t a flaw on their part. And that the Parks don’t understand their role in maintaining the cycle of poverty isn’t a damnable offense either. Parasite doesn’t proclaim individuals to be the root cause of inequality. Instead, Bong focuses on the individual members of the families as a metaphor for the larger, systemic problems that heighten economic disparity and keep the working class pitted against itself in a continual cycle of poverty. It’s a nuanced, oddly comedic piece, and though the third act seemed like it belonged to a different film at times, it works as a whole. I’d recommend Parasite whether you’re a Halloween thrill seeker or a Marxist professor.