Cannes winner "Parasite" comes to the cinema: exploiters from next door - culture - Tagesspiegel
Socks hang to dry on a carousel in the basement apartment. They have not become really clean, gray and limp they are the eye-catcher of the first picture in Bong Joon-ho's "Parasite". Through the dirty windows you can see the narrow street, a bicycle comes by at eye level, suppliers work in the background. In one shot it becomes clear that this apartment is the end of a cul-de-sac. Then the camera follows the young Ki-woo (Choi Woo-sik) in a planning sequence. In search of the neighbors' free network, he crisscrossed the completed apartment with his cell phone held up until he finally got a reception near the toilet, halfway up.
"Parasite" is a film of spaces and topographical arrangements. Down in the valley of Seoul are the quarters of the poor, this is where the family of four live. Mother and father lie on the floor, too lazy to tidy up or to invest even a spark of energy in their own lives. They are tragicomic figures in a sad existence. When Ki-woo finds a job as an English tutor, hope comes up.
Little by little he smuggles sister, father and mother as servants to the rich family Park, diplomas and business cards, which his sister Ki-Jung (So-dam Park) forges, are the door openers to the villa. The Kims use nasty tricks to take out the park's long-serving staff, a sneaky class struggle among peers.
What starts out as a socially realistic family drama soon turns into an imposter comedy that Bong infuses with black humor. Also in conversation during the Munich Film Festival, where "Parasite" had its German premiere after the Golden Palm in Cannes in August, he keeps bursting out laughing. "
The fate of the family becomes even more bitter behind our laughter, it shows the whole existential tragedy, ”he says. For him, the black humor and despair of the family naturally go together. This struggle for survival later escalates even after an over-the-top, horror-like turn, when the intruders have to defend the villa against another family. "Parasite" is a clever genre mix.
Bong calls it a "film of doors and stairs". The villa is spacious, with many stairs that lead to the upper floors, but also to the basement - the realm of the housekeeper. "Every door opens on a secret," says Bong. That's why he named the first housekeeper who lost her job at the parks after an intrigue at the parks, Moon-gwang: her name contains the Korean word for "door". She knows all the building secrets of the villa, they are also essential for the architecture of the plot.
The social divide is the theme of “Parasite”, with which Bong identifies himself as a politically alert and critical director. He was the first South Korean to be awarded the Golden Palm, last year his compatriot Lee Chang-dong with the Murakami adaptation "Burning" was a strong contender.
Both are films about social differences in Korea, both photographed by cameraman Hong Kyung-pyo, with whom Bong has been working since "Mother" (2009) - his last film made in Korea. After the dystopian parable "Snowpiercer" (2013) and the satire "Okja" (2017) about a genetically manipulated giant pig, he returned to Seoul with "Parasite" and on a smaller budget. It should be another story about a family, says Bong, he carried the idea around with him for a long time.
With his still manageable total work of seven films, the author-filmmaker Bong has given South Korean cinema an important voice since its boom in the late 1990s. The surprising success of "Parasite" brought the arthouse cinema back in blockbuster dimensions for the second time after Bong's international breakthrough with "The Host" (2006).
The mix of genres and pitches makes up the special bong touch. His films avoid ambiguities, even “Parasite” remains morally ambivalent. The poor family is cunning, the rich family tries to do the right thing. "Nobody is only good or only bad," says Bong. It also leaves open who the eponymous parasite is meant, the intruders or the exploiters: "From the working class perspective, the rich can also be regarded as a parasite because they live at the expense of the poor."
The Park family stands for the economic upturn in South Korea, the father is an entrepreneur in the IT industry, speaking English is a distinctive feature. This brings stress to the luxury domicile - and more by chance the tutor Ki-woo.
This is how the upper class comes into contact with the precariat. The middle class, the link between the two classes, disappears, the sociologist Bong notes. "It is a global phenomenon. My film is set in South Korea, but it picks up on a development that is happening in all capitalist countries. ”
In this clash, the smell of the rags of the proletariat can no longer be ignored. Businessman Park first notices him about his new chauffeur Kim (Bongs regular actor Song Kang-ho). This olfactory characteristic threatens to expose the family. The detailed picture compositions make the stench very vivid.
It is constantly damp, the waste water emerges from the sewage system to the surface, black sewers are forcefully pushed out of the toilet bowl in the basement. The Kim family finds themselves in an emergency shelter. Another time, toxic insecticide vapors enter her home. This is the misery of the lower class. "Real life," says Bong.
The disgust of the upper class culminates in a furious showdown at a garden party. In an act of social self-defense, brute force is released against Father Park. "This explosion breaks out of pent-up feelings, the trigger is humiliation," explains Bong.
You can only start from the father, the young generation does not yet have this anger in them. Ki-woo dreams more of living in a villa with his family. The son would have to work for 547 years.
"The climb is out of the question, that's pure phantasm," summarizes Bong. This gap between rich and poor in South Korea makes him think. The dangerous thing is that the split is getting bigger. At the end, when the credits are already on the screen, Ki-woo sings about how he hires himself as a day laborer. Bong wrote the song about the resilience of the disadvantaged himself. It's not very optimistic, but it's laconic and a bit cheerful. So actually like in real life.