I discovered Bong Joon-Ho a few years ago when I saw his 2013 movie Snowpiercer.
I was taken away by its power and imagination. It seamlessly mixed action and science fiction. Just like Snowpiercer, Parasite’s story revolves around confronting different classes of society, the rich vs. the poor, except this time, it’s not set in the future inside a train, but in today’s South Korea, we assume in Seoul.
Technically, the film is flawless. The camera moves swiftly, there are lots of cool slow motion shots, the acting is top-notch, the choice of music mostly appropriate. The story is clever and told for the most part masterfully.
But, I never felt a strong connection to any of the characters. Sure, I regularly felt uneasy and on the edge of my seat as Bong Joon-Ho knows how to instil a scene with discomfort and tension. However, all the characters were heartless. It’s likely intentional on the director’s part and although the film works, I was disappointed because unlike in Okja, Joon-Ho’s previous film, despite the utterly atrocious things that were taking place, there were poetic, touching and moving moments. You felt something for the characters even if one of them was a CGI pig.
Furthermore, in Parasite, the rich family is really dumb and they treat the poor in condescending ways. Their scenes are often accompanied by opera music. I am not saying that it’s unrealistic but it’s so stereotypical. I was expecting more than one dimensional characters. For example, I thought the rich mother, who lets her daughter be tutored in English by someone who doesn’t speak a word of it, and who occasionally speaks clever English phrases herself, would reveal that she knew what was going on. But no. They are just dumb.
Towards the end, there is a weakness in the script that is surprising. I don’t want to say too much in order not to ruin the film for you. And just like with Okja, the film would have benefited from a tighter edit. Also, it felt like there were several endings and Joon-Ho couldn’t decide which one would be the best to end with.
Overall though, the film still rises above most of what you will see in the cinema these days but it’s not a masterpiece. It’s solid, smart but heartless. Please bring back the poetry and the warmth.
Seen with Francis and Yusef at Varsity Toronto Dec 19, 2019