Neal Caffrey

The Visual Style of Parasite

You’ve probably taken a ‘gander’ at Bong Joon-ho’s cinematic masterpiece, ‘Parasite,’ but have you ever noticed the visual architecture that enhances its storytelling?

It’s a tapestry woven from the threads of setting, lighting, colors, and symbols, each meticulously chosen to underscore the film’s themes of social class disparity.

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The drama’s brilliance isn’t just in its script, it’s also hidden subtly in the frames, in the play of light and shadow, in the hues and motifs that adorn each scene.

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So, how about we pull back the veil on this intriguing visual narrative and see what’s hiding beneath?

Key Takeaways

  • The film’s contrasting settings underscore the social class divide, using vertical space in the semi-basement and the luxurious modern house.
  • Lighting techniques, varying from natural to artificial, are employed to manipulate atmosphere, tension, and reveal or conceal information.
  • Color symbolism in Parasite is significant, with red indicating danger and green representing wealth, enhancing the narrative’s depth.
  • The use of composition techniques, spatial relationships, and visual motifs like staircases and the scholar’s rock, further enrich the film’s thematic complexity.

Understanding Parasite’s Setting

Understanding Parasite's Setting

Diving right into the heart of Parasite’s setting, you’ll quickly notice the stark differences in living conditions between the Kim and Park families, a visual embodiment of the social class divide present in South Korea. The Kim’s semi-basement living conditions are a far cry from the Park’s luxurious home. Their basement home is cramped, dingy, and requires vertical space utilization, with every corner filled with clutter.

This contrast is starkly evident as the film’s narrative unfolds, with the Kims constantly battling pests and flooding, while the Parks live in airy, well-lit spaces. Yet, the clever use of space in the Kim’s home adds a sense of coziness and resilience, reflecting their determination to rise above their circumstances. It’s a visual spectacle that speaks volumes about the socio-economic disparity.

Social Class Divide Depiction

Social Class Divide Depiction

Building on the visual contrasts in the families’ living conditions, Parasite masterfully depicts the social class divide through a lens of sharp realism and biting satire. The Kims’ dilapidated semi-basement and the Parks’ modern mansion underscore the socioeconomic disparity between the two families. This visual contrast serves as a stark reminder of the harsh realities of social stratification.

You’ll notice how the film uses the spatial relationship between characters to symbolize their social status. The Kims are often seen below the Parks, reinforcing their lower class status. The use of a flood to literally drown the Kims in their poverty is a powerful metaphor that drives the message home.

In Parasite, the social class divide isn’t just a backdrop, it’s a character in itself.

Role of Lighting in Parasite

Creating Atmosphere With Light

In Parasite, the clever use of lighting plays a significant role in shaping the atmosphere and tension, casting a spotlight not just on the characters, but also on the stark class divide between them.

Exploring shadows and light, the film masterfully uses lighting to create symbolic contrasts between the affluent Parks and the impoverished Kims. The emotional impact is immense, as the lighting subtly underscores the characters’ emotions and the societal disparities they face.

For instance, the Kims’ semi-basement home is often dimly lit, reflecting their desperate situation. On the other hand, the Parks’ home is bathed in natural light, symbolizing their privileged status.

This visual storytelling, achieved through the strategic use of light, adds layers to the narrative, making Parasite a cinematic masterpiece.

Creating Atmosphere With Light

Role Of Lighting In Parasite

While the use of lighting in Parasite underscores the societal disparities between the Kims and the Parks, it’s also instrumental in creating a captivating atmosphere throughout the film. Ambient lighting, for instance, is expertly used to create mood. In the Parks’ lavish home, it’s soft and diffused, creating an air of serenity and wealth. Conversely, the Kims’ semi-basement is bathed in erratic, harsh light, reflecting their chaotic, impoverished existence.

Shadow play adds another layer, ratcheting up the visual tension. Notice how shadows are utilized to hint at the lurking secrets and imminent danger? That’s no accident. By manipulating light and shadow, the film cleverly constructs an atmospheric narrative, pulling you deeper into the twisted tale. It’s a masterclass in visual storytelling.

Color Symbolism in Parasite

Red And Green Power Dynamics

Let’s dive into the vivid world of color symbolism in Parasite, where every hue is meticulously chosen to convey deeper layers of the narrative and emphasize the stark social contrasts.

Each color, from the washed-out palette of the Kim’s semi-basement to the crisp, pristine tones of the Park’s house, has hidden meanings that underscore the class division.

Symbolic colors aren’t chosen randomly; they’re as integral to the narrative as the characters themselves. The Kims, for instance, are often shrouded in grays and blues, reflecting their bleak existence, while the Parks bask in warm, inviting tones, symbolizing their affluent lifestyle.

These nuanced color choices create a vibrant tapestry of visual storytelling, silently echoing the film’s themes of class disparity and social mobility.

Red and Green: Power Dynamics

Color Symbolism In Parasite

Delving into the power dynamics of Parasite, you’ll notice the purposeful use of red and green, colors traditionally linked with danger and wealth, respectively. This isn’t just a pretty color palette; it’s a clever visual tool.

The red symbolism is most evident during the climactic party scene. The bloody violence, showcased against a backdrop of lush greenery, signifies the dangerous shift in wealth dynamics.

Similarly, the Parks’ opulent, green-filled home underscores their affluence, while the Kims’ red hot sauce factory signals their precarious economic status. It’s fascinating how color, so often overlooked, reveals the deeper narrative layers of the film.

These hues aren’t just decoration; they’re revealing, nuanced characters in their own right, silently narrating a tale of power, danger, and wealth.

Composition Techniques in Parasite

Composition Techniques In Parasite

Just as color plays a pivotal role in Parasite’s narrative, so too does the film’s composition, using clever visual techniques to amplify its themes and messages. The film’s visual storytelling is enhanced through a variety of cinematic techniques:

  • Framing: This technique is masterfully used to depict the social hierarchy. Notice how the Kims are often shown in cramped corners, while the Parks occupy expansive spaces.
  • Depth of field: Sharp focus foregrounds important subjects or actions, whereas blurred backgrounds subtly hint at lurking dangers.
  • Mirroring: The film uses reflection to depict duality and deception.
  • Symmetry: Symmetrical shots emphasize the artificial order and balance in the Parks’ world.
  • High-angle shots: These shots subtly portray the Kims’ low status, as they’re often looked down upon.

Each of these techniques contributes to the movie’s rich visual narrative.

Symbolic Elements in Framing

Symbolic Elements In Framing

In the visually stunning film Parasite, the choice of framing often incorporates symbolic elements that serve to heighten the narrative’s exploration of social inequality and deception.

You’ll notice the symbolic framing is used to visually depict the social class divide. For instance, the Kims’ cramped semi-basement is often shot in a tight, restricting frame, symbolizing their trapped status in society.

Contrastingly, the Parks’ spacious mansion is captured in wide, open frames, reflecting their freedom and wealth.

The lighting too, plays a crucial role in visual storytelling. The Kims’ dwelling is often bathed in artificial light, signifying their struggles, while the Parks’ home enjoys an abundance of natural light, illustrating their effortless prosperity.

These visual cues subtly accentuate the film’s thematic depth.

Symbolism: Rock, Stairs, and Windows

Symbolism Rock, Stairs, And Windows

Building on the intricate visual storytelling, Parasite also introduces compelling symbols like the scholar’s rock, stairs, and windows to enhance its commentary on social class and wealth disparity. These elements aren’t just props, they’re integral to the visual storytelling of the film.

  • The scholar’s rock, a gift to the Kims, is a powerful wealth representation. It’s believed to bring material prosperity but ends up symbolizing the weight of their deception.
  • Windows in the Park’s house offer a glimpse into their affluent world, contrasting with the tiny, grime-streaked window in the Kim’s semi-basement.
  • Notice how stairs are used to illustrate the physical and metaphorical descent into the world of the wealthy.

Each of these symbols deepens our understanding of the story, and the characters’ struggle within their socio-economic confines.

Stairs as Social Mobility Symbol

Stairs As Social Mobility Symbol

You’ll notice the prevalent use of stairs in Parasite, a subtle yet powerful symbol representing social mobility and the characters’ quest to climb up the societal ladder. Their symbolic ascent, often fraught with peril, mirrors their struggle to rise above their current status.

The Kim family’s descent into their semi-basement home contrasts sharply with the Park’s grand staircase, visually embodying class mobility or the lack thereof. Climbing the stairs becomes a metaphor for the Kims’ aspiration to ascend the social hierarchy.

Yet, the same steps also serve as a stark reminder of their precarious position, ready to tumble down at any moment. In Parasite, stairs aren’t just architectural features; they’re a poignant commentary on the societal divide.


So, as you can see, ‘Parasite’ isn’t just a show; it’s a masterclass in visual storytelling. From setting to lighting, color to composition, every element is carefully chosen to enhance the narrative.

Remember, the devil is in the details, and in Bong Joon-ho’s world, those details are meticulously crafted, creating a visual feast that’s as thought-provoking as it’s entertaining.

So, the next time you watch ‘Parasite,’ look a little closer. You may be surprised at what you find.

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