Arriving in UK cinemas cloaked in the Oscars buzz of a Best Picture and Best Director nomination, Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite is riding high in the expectations of cinema-goers. Conditions are almost ripe for a backlash, the sort of overhype that leaves some a little disappointed, but this just ain’t that kind of film.
Parasite is quite simply a supreme feat of film-making, a tense and hilarious jewel box of a film that draws you deeper and deeper into its wicked, absurdist satire. The story centres on the Kim family who are struggling to find work and do not live in a big house. Theirs is a sub-basement dwelling where the only window stares straight out at street-level, affording them panoramic views of the drunks who stumble along and urinate in the back-alleys where they live. A rare job opportunity comes along when their son, Kim Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik) is asked to tutor the daughter of the wealthy Park family. The Parks live in a very big house, with giant picture windows that look out on their garden and its perfectly manicured lawn.
Kim Ki-woo senses an opportunity to get his sister and father employed by the Park family, using a blend of sabotage and suggestion to try and improve their fortunes. Because of their meddling, the Kim family disturb the delicate ecosystem of the Park household in more ways than might be expected and things begin to unravel in a fraught, gleefully strange way. Bong’s great achievement may be in blending genre-styles effortlessly, taking a dash of heist-movie cool and splicing it with the sort of suspenseful horror that will genuinely leave you mouth agape, terrified to know what’s next.
So much has been said already about Parasite’s status as a sensational, stand-out film, it feels like gilding the lily to add to the superlatives. Lee Ha-jun deserves special praise for the production design in building the set of the Park’s family residence from the ground-up. In a film that is so much about angled perspective, windows, standing in someone else’s place – the house provides a bespoke sandbox where the camera captures shot after shot of breath-taking precision.