Parasite Architecture in Film Review
Parasite is a film by Bong Joon-Ho that came out in 2019. The director uses the house in the film like a character in the movie. The architecture within the film sets up character development, dichotomies, mood, and a long string of metaphors. As an architect I wanted to explore how architecture is used in the film Parasite.
Parasite Film Review
The first thing I want to tell you is that Parasite is by far the best film I saw in 2019. The second thing I want to tell you is that this review has spoilers, so be warned if you haven’t seen it yet.
Parasite Spoilers in this Movie Review
The House in Parasite
Most of the movie is filmed in a house owned by the characters the Park Family. I was surprised to find out that this house was actually a set. It looked so much like a real modern house that I thought it could have been a real house owned by a wealthy family used for the filming of the movie.
Youtube Video of my Parasite Architecture in Film Review
The Plot of Parasite and its Symbolism
Parasite begins as a story about two families the Kim family who are poor and the Park family who are wealthy. The entire film is a metaphor for the disparity between the rich and the poor. As well as pointing out the hardships the poor face when they struggle to move up the social and economic ladder. The director uses stairs as a theme throughout the film illustrating the difference between the upper class and the working class.
Parasite Film Window, Stairs, Windows, Architecture
The architecture in the film is used to depict the difference between the poor Kim family and the rich Park family. The Kims live in a basement where they are below the street level. They look up to the street where through their window they see pedestrian activity and even a drunk man urinating outside their window. The Park’s home is filled with large windows and light that look onto their private lawn. The director films this with brightness and light whereas the Kim’s basement is dark and grey. The Kim family looks up to an ally from their window but the Park family looks down to a beautiful manicured lawn. There is a large window in the Park’s living room that is used in many parts of the film. In the way that an architect uses windows and architecture to frame a view, the director uses windows to frame a perspective on the different lives the families live.
The Plot of the movie is essentially that the Kim family infiltrates the Park family home by all getting jobs there through deception and trickery. Whenever one of the Kims go to the Parks house they are seen walking uphill or up stairs. This signifies that the Park family is above them on the socioeconomic level. Climbing the stairs can also be a metaphor for the Kim’s aspiration to move up the ladder of the economic system. Whenever the Kim’s leave the house they move downhill or down stairs to get to their home.
Architectural Metaphor in Film
The stairs in the film are the greatest metaphor and motif throughout the entire movie. They are a constant symbol of the difference between the Park and Kim families. This is symbolic of the difference between the rich and the poor in society. The film is filled with symbolism and metaphor. One of them is also the metaphor of how the poor fight against each other for whatever success they can strive for. The poor fighting each other comes out in the plot twist where a third family becomes crucial to the film. They become enemies of the Kim family once they are discovered. This is Moon-Gwang and her husband who is living under the Park’s house in a secret bunker built by the original owner who was said to be the architect for the house. This family is also poor. We discover their home underneath the Park’s house as we descend into the bunker through a secret set of stairs.
Within the Park’s house the stairs are all open. They are made of wood and glass. The stairs to the cellar are made of raw concrete. They are narrow and claustrophobic. The bunker is in the Park’s cellar but it looks more like a lower quality version of the Kim’s basement apartment. The stairs are a constant reminder of the difference in economic status between the Park Family and the families that have worked for them.
The stairs are the greatest metaphor in the film but there is another one.
Climate Change Metaphor in Parasite
One day the wealthy Park family leaves for a camping trip. Due to a storm they must cancel their trip and return home. The Kim family walks home from the Parks in despair to their home. They walk downhill and down stairs to their basement apartment. We see the water follow them flowing towards their flooded street. they find their home flooded and damaged. Kee-Jung seeks the highest point in the apartment sitting on top of an elevated toilet to smoke a cigarette. This is a metaphor of how climate change is having a greater impact on the poor but to the wealthy Park family it is a simple inconvenience.
The storm destroys the Kim’s home and they must sleep in a gymnasium with the rest of the people from their neighborhood. The greatest harm to the Park family caused by the storm is that they have to cancel their camping trip. They end up enjoying the beautiful next day standing in front a their large window with sun coming in. While the Kim family has to rummage for clothes in the gymnasium. The Parks continue with their day planning a party they will hold in their backyard.
Throughout the film the director uses architecture to tell the story with the use of literal and metaphoric comparison and contrast.
I really enjoyed this film and hope you did as well.
I am just an architect speaking my opinions on a movie that I really liked.
Author Jorge Fontan AIA
This post was written by Jorge Fontan, a Registered Architect and owner of Fontan Architecture.