The Beauty of Bong Joon-ho's Parasite: 5 Tips To Transform Your Craft

Wednesday 12 February 2020

Even if you haven't seen Bong Joon-ho's Oscar-winning film 'Parasite' (winning 4 Oscars in total!),  I'm certain you have heard of it. It's the number one movie on everybody's lips. Not only is the multiple Oscar win a monumental moment in film as the first non-english language film to win Best Picture, but the film itself is a necessary commentary on social status, class and complex relationships in the struggle to attain 'false' consciousness and personal power.

Personally, I fell in love with 'Parasite' for many reasons, and haven't stopped thinking about it since I saw it last week. So in today's article I'm sharing 5 craft tips inspired by Bong Joon-Ho that may inspire your approach as a writer or filmmaker.

I have the urge to make audiences thrill with the excitement of a genre, but I also try to betray and destroy the expectations placed on that genre.

We've spoken about getting 'stuck-in-the-mud' when it comes to our first draft

There's so many rules that we're told to follow - and you know what our stance is here at Into The Script when it comes to rules. Sure, learn and listen but when it comes to your project it pays to take some risks. And it's clear Bong Joon-ho feels the same way!

His films are not confined to a specific genre or the rules and expectations ingrained in these genres and THAT makes his films for an incredible viewing experience. He takes elements from what he loves and is inspired by, but he's not focused on following the rules. He's focused on the storytelling, specifically the complex characters at the heart of his story. 

That way, the audience never know what they are in for when going to see a film of his!

The multilevel, the conscious and the unconscious, is natural when I write scripts, when I come up with ideas and stories.

He has an incredible talent for imbuing the darker moments of his films with humour, which in turn not only provides comic relief for the audience but also allows them to empathise for the characters on film. We feel guilty for laughing at their often heart-breaking or disturbing moments! 

The mother in Parasite was a central (and oblivious) to most of these scenes. Believing her son as an artistic genius and proudly showing Ki-woo his artwork. The scene where she recalls him seeing a ghost in the home, starts off light-hearted - almost casual as she shares the story with Chung-sook - but the reveal of 'the ghost' is something else entirely. 

And all we see emerging from the stairway are large bulging eyes staring right at us.  The rest is left up to our imagination!

Bong is renowned for his multi-layered approach. Every character carries dramatic weight which allows for the tension and uncertainty as to where the story is headed to build throughout. 

I think when one becomes very close to another person, it can mean loving and intimacy, but on the other hand, there's also the danger of one destructing another under the name of love. I think that is the scariest thing for me in various relationships.

The commentary on class is clear. It's a wicked and brutal look at inequality seen between a wealthy Korean family and a poor family (unknowingly) hired to serve them in various roles (a housekeeper, art tutor, student tutor and driver). 

Social class is a subject Bong Joon-ho has long been highlighting in his work. And in Parasite, it's the idea of 'class solidarity' and desire to be equal that results in brutal consequences. 

Deception and murder takes place, specifically when the previous house-keeper Gook Moon-Gwang pleads to her replacement to keep her husband sheltering in the basement a secret as they are of the same social class and status. Chung-sook does not see it this way in her new role as housekeeper, resulting in a terrible sequence of events leaving members of both families dead. 

Bong reminds us that frequently, our egos can be the cause of our own undoing. 

My favourite genre lies inside myself, and as I follow my favourite stories, characters and images, it sums up to a certain genre. So at times even I have to try to guess which genre a film will be after I've made it.

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As mentioned above, Bong does not concern himself with writing something to specifically fit a genre. It is a human story that has elements of many, and that is what makes it so interesting and compelling to watch. 

Get your story fleshed out and finished, in it's final version will it be easier to determine the overall tone/genre. 

Stay open to inspiration, be fluid in your approach. 

Parasite has been called a dark comedy, a horror, a drama and a thriller. All of these sound like a huge contrast to the other right? Exactly! Elements and inspiration taken from each.

There is a lot of extreme emotion in Korean film. It's because there are a lot of extremes in Korean society.

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The entire Kim family are aware of their social status. Quite literally living in a half-basement living underground but with a window - allowing them to have a partial view at what is beyond. This is a deliberate image Bong wants to start and end the film with. It is this hope of bettering their lives and of what lies beyond the window that results in the tragedy of two families. 

The tension throughout the film of sympathising with the Kim family, and later with the Park family allows the audience to transition between empathy for both. Both classes have their own problems, however it becomes a dog-eat-dog mentality. 

The oppressed are prepared to do what they must to achieve a similar lifestyle to that of the Park family, and the Park family are blissfully unaware of their privilege over their 'help'. And we all know the final straw that caused Ki-taek to snap. 

That small gesture that was referenced throughout - becomes the blinding realisation that he will never be seen as an equal which causes heartbreaking results. 

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