Last November, my movie fanatic friend Manuel texted me demanding that I watch a Korean movie called “Parasite”. The first image that came to mind was a black and white movie poster of an enlarged tick or an intestinal worm with a typical Asian horror film scenario: Someone gets infected by the parasite, it gets big and bursts out of the host’s body -preferably through eyes and nose- and affect the rest of the population before an outlaw scientist or a government agent finds the cure for it.
I texted back asking about its genre and he answered “black comedy” (I discovered later that everyone reacted the same way: “is it a horror movie?” followed by: “why is it called parasite then?”). When it finally arrived here by the end of January, I went along with my brother and was surprised to see the big crowd in the hall. Parasite engages you from the first scene, as the camera movement takes you down to a narrow basement apartment where the Kim family live and thrive in a parasitical manner: accessing illegally the wi-fi signals of their upstairs neighbours and almost getting poisoned by pesticide spraying as the father insists on leaving the windows opened just because it’s for free.
The family struggle to make ends meet and take on odd jobs such as assembling pizza boxes for fast food chains. Things starts changing for them when the son Ki-woo gets a gift from his friend’s grandfather: a scholar’s rock that promises financial gains, which the grandfather thinks that it could help the impoverished family.
The same friend then asks Ki-woo to replace him as an English tutor for a rich high school student as he’s travelling abroad. With the help of his sister, Ki-woo fakes a university degree and gets hired by the Park family. Soon the whole of Kim family moves to the Park’s resident to continue their parasitical existence, only to be faced with a threat of being exposed by the Park’s old housekeeper.
To what extreme would the family go to defend their life in this rich and safe environment? Although the concept of the movie is really simple, yet the audience are given constant doses of shock at almost every scene. From the vast societal differences in rich South Korea to the dependence that each class has for the other. At times it’s hard to define who’s the real parasite even with the rich insisting that the poor “shouldn’t cross the line”.
The movie is a smart black comedy that reflects conflict and inequality between social classes, with diverse scenes that assembles other genres such as action, drama and horror.
The captivating shots transfers you from one social class to the other along with other surprising scenes that displays the abyss between them. Sympathy is felt for both families: the Kim’s for their continuous struggle and the Park’s for their blissed ignorance.
The movie won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes film festival last year. It was the first Korean movie to be nominated at the BAFTA’s (British Film Awards) and win: best film not in English language and best original screenplay. It also made history at the Oscar’s, being the first foreign movie to win the best picture category along with: best director, best original screenplay and best foreign movie.
If you didn’t get the chance to watch it at the cinema, make sure you catch it when it starts streaming online. Parasite will keep you at the edge of your seat and make you think for a long time, just like every cinematic masterpiece.
Rasha al Raisi is a certified skills trainer and the author of: The World According to Bahja.