Parasite: Nafas Drama Korea dalam Kompilasi Filmografi Bong Joon Ho

Parasite 1

Dulu saya pernah bertanya-tanya, mengapa saya bisa menonton Memories of Murder (2003)  berkali-kali, padahal film tersebut diangkat dari kisah nyata yang artinya tidak banyak ruang tersisa bagi sutradara untuk berimajinasi liar. Setelah menonton Parasite (2 kali!), sepertinya saya menemukan jawabannya.

Membaca filmografinya, Bong Joon Ho hampir selalu menawarkan premis sederhana yang disampaikan dengan narasi linear. Sinematografi dan musik yang dramatis tidak serta-merta menjadikan film-film Bong pretentious. Tapi saya curiga dua elemen tadi justru yang membuat banyak orang seringkali melihat film-film Bong Joon Ho sebagai karya yang avant garde dan gila, apalagi Bong juga suka dengan metafora-metafora kecil. Padahal buat saya kebalikannya. Bong juga suka menyelipkan bercandaan konyol segelap apapun filmnya. Tidak salah jika kemudian ada yang menyandingkan Parasite dengan film-film Warkop DKI yang juga kerap berisi satir sosial.

Menonton drama Korea mungkin bisa memberikan gambaran yang lebih jelas bagaimana kelas merupakan topik bahasan yang sangat lazim, nyaris selazim nasi dan kimchi bagi orang Korea, dalam tayangan yang distereotipkan sebagai tontonan kacangan atau alay. Dari drama harian atau akhir pekan (yang ceritanya kadang luar biasa tidak masuk akal), komedi romantis dengan fairy tale syndrome-nya, kriminal, sosial politik sampai horor; dari ribut-ribut ala orang kaya kompleks vs orang miskin kampung sebelah sampai kesenjangan struktural, kelas hadir baik sebagai subyek maupun latar belakang dalam drama Korea. Bisa jadi ini juga jadi salah satu alasan kenapa Bong bilang film ini mungkin terlalu Korea buat penonton internasional (terlebih bagi mereka yang tidak menonton drama Korea), di luar simbol-simbol lokal lain yang (tentunya sebagai bukan orang Korea) saya juga belum paham benar. Mungkin.

Parasite 3
Keluarga Kim bekerja serabutan sebagai pelipat box pizza di apartemen semi-basement (banjiha/반지하) mereka

Namun tidak seperti drama yang punya keleluasaan episode untuk bereksplorasi membangun narasi, film harus mampu memadatkan argumen-argumennya dalam waktu yang terbatas. Bong melakukan ini dengan menciptakan penanda yang dihadirkan berulang kali untuk membangun intensitas pemicu konflik. Jika dalam Mother (2009) penanda itu adalah ejekan Bodoh kepada Do Joon (Won Bin), dalam Parasite (2019) Bong menggunakan Bau dan Batas.

Mr Park (Lee Sun Kyun), seperti layaknya kelas menengah atas pretensius lainnya, (seakan-akan) memberikan kebebasan dan menghargai pekerja-pekerjanya, selama mereka tidak “melewati batas”. Dalam kata Batas terkandung makna kesetaraan yang munafik. “I’m all for (insert cause/term), as long as…”. Bayangan melintasnya para pekerja rumah tangga ke dalam eksklusivitas teritori sosial imajiner pasangan Park membuat fake woke people ini gerah, segerah kelas menengah Jakarta yang terganggu dengan gegar budaya masyarakat kelas bawah terbelakang yang tidak pernah mencicipi kedisiplinan bermasyarakat ala negara dunia pertama atau kejijikan kaum borjuis mencium toilet Plaza Indonesia yang hilang kewangiannya tergantikan bau busuk hajat rakyat jelata di gegap gempitanya uji coba MRT. Kemunafikan Mr. Park sedikit banyak mengingatkan saya pada Han Jung Yo, kepala keluarga keluarga Han dalam Heard It Through the Grapevine (2015) (still, one of Korean drama’s masterpieces to date), drama Korea yang juga menguliti dan mengolok-olok pretensi basi kaum borjuasi.

Parasite 2
Mr Park (Lee Sun Kyun) & Yeon Kyo (Cho Yeo Jeong)

Jika Batas adalah penanda bagi Mr Park, Bau adalah penanda bagi Kim Ki Taek (Song Kang Ho). Isyarat Bau yang didemonstrasikan berulang kali menggoyahkan kepercayaan diri Ki Taek karena bau mengafirmasikan posisi marjinalnya. A quite Orwellian of Bong. Maka kemudian ledakan kemarahan Ki Taek melihat Mr Park menutup hidung memang seperti bom waktu, seperti Hye Ja (Kim Hye Ja) dalam Mother yang mengamuk mendengar putra kesayangannya dipanggil Bodoh.

But there was another and more serious difficulty. Here you come to the real secret of class distinctions in the West–the real reason why a European of bourgeois upbringing, even when he calls himself a Communist, cannot without a hard effort think of a working man as his equal. It is summed up in four frightful words which people nowadays are chary of uttering, but which were bandied about quite freely in my childhood. The words were: The lower classes smell.

The Road to Wigan Pier, Chapter 8 – George Orwell

Parasite 7
Song Kang Ho sebagai Kim Ki Taek. Lewat Parasite dan The Host, akhirnya saya akhirnya paham kenapa Song Kang Ho jadi kesayangan banyak sutradara di Korea Selatan

Tidak hanya menghadirkan konflik vertikal (yang dalam film-film Bong sering disimbolisasikan secara harfiah dengan ruang-ruang vertikal), tapi Parasite juga menunjukkan bahwa peperangan sesungguhnya justru terjadi di lapisan bawah. Apapun masalahnya, kaum elit (di seluruh dunia) selalu jadi yang lebih dahulu lolos dari jeratan masalah, sedangkan rakyat jelata tetap gontok-gontokan untuk bertahan hidup. Apalagi ketika sudah menyangkut urusan perut.

Parasite 4
Kakak beradik Kim Ki Jung (Park So Dam) & Kim Ki Joo (Choi Woo Shik)

Seperti dalam banyak drama Korea, Parasite juga menolak dikotomi perspektif hitam – putih, walaupun Bong tetap mengambil posisi dalam film ini. Tipu-tipu keluarga Kim ‘menginvasi’ ruang mewah keluarga Park berangkat dari kebutuhan mereka bertahan hidup. Untungnya si empunya rumah bukan ‘monster’. Dalam kepala Ki Taek, ini artinya “Mr Park adalah orang baik walaupun dia kaya”. Choong Sook (Jang Hye Jin), istri Ki Taek, kemudian mengoreksinya dengan “Mr Park bukan kaya tapi baik. Dia bisa baik karena kaya. Gue juga bisa baik kalau kaya”. Pahit memang melihat keluarga Kim harus menjustifikasi usahanya mencari pekerjaan (rendahan pula) karena merasa bersalah sudah menipu dan menjadi Parasit di rumah keluarga Park. Entah Bong mengutip atau terinspirasi, yang jelas kalimat ini adalah kalimat paling menohok & mengesankan dalam drama My Ahjussi (2018) (yang juga dibintangi Lee Sun Kyun).

Parasite kemudian menjadi salah satu karya Bong yang paling saya nikmati justru bukan karena “kebesaran” idenya. Kebrutalan Parasite bisa jadi tidak “segila” film-film Park Chan Wook dan kesedihannya bisa jadi tidak seperih film-film Hirokazu Koreeda (walaupun di kali kedua saya menonton, saya mewek menyaksikan tatapan sedih Pak Ki Taek setiap tuan dan nyonyanya tutup hidung atau melihat kesigapan Kim Ki Woo (Choi Woo Shik) mengambil setiap kesempatan walaupun dia tidak akan pernah living his dreams), namun saya menyukai keluwesan (dan kemauan) Bong menjembatani ranah film komersil dan the so-called film seni, bahkan memasukkan rasa drama dalam kasus Parasite. Kalau diibaratkan makanan, Parasite terasa seperti masakan dengan berbagai macam bumbu yang menyatu halus dengan rasa yang tidak tajam sehingga membuat penyantapnya ingin mencicipi kembali untuk meraba rasa apa yang tercampur dalam makanan tersebut, if that makes any sense. Ini nampaknya jawaban pertanyaan saya di awal tadi.

Menggabungkan banyak elemen dari film-film terdahulunya, ditambah dengan kerapian semua aspek film, mulai dari cerita, alur, hingga akting para pemainnya, Parasite tak terelakkan terasa seperti kompilasi filmografi Bong Joon Ho. Ala-ala album Best Of lah kira-kiranya.

 

Tulisan ini pertama kali diterbitkan di sini.

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i like food court

Processed with VSCO with j1 preset

nobody comes to make impressions
nobody comes to see
nobody comes to be seen
people minding their own business (even if it includes eavesdropping people sitting next to them gossiping)

“come on, new shoes, beautiful hair, bullshit!
saccharine ballads and selfies, and selfies, and selfies
and here’s me outside the palace of me!”*

and here’s me lost in the palace of me
sitting facing the illusion of grandeur

i became pathetic

listening to your banal hyper intellectualism
theories, and theories, and your unidimensional theories
they are so thought-provoking
unbelievably groundbreaking
please please do tell me more about it

online emphaties are lies
oh yes thank you for your pukpuk massal
are we even that close?

but thank you and i love you

channel the spirits, because the comet is coming*
but first

dream

dreams are cheap in food court
dreams are made for everyone

but subhumans

i like food court
“do you mind throwing my pride too to the trash bin? makasih mas”

 

senayan city, november 10, 2017

 

*excerpt from kate tempest’s ‘europe is lost’*
*’channel the spirits’ is the first album by the comet is coming*

ps: listening to tempest when you’re lost in your own head will really make you feel melancholic. by you i meant me

What Makes A Mother? : Mother / Madeo (마더) (2018)

Mother 1

Mother puts women at the centre of its conversation and in the process, the choices they make liberate them from patriarchy construct of female identities without having to demonise men

I almost forgot how fantastic this drama is until I stumbled upon its rerun just recently. Mother is one of a very few dramas/movies that challenges primordial female identity. Based on Japanese drama of the same title, the drama also placed women at the centre of its grand narrative, detaching itself almost entirely from real-life dictating patriarchy.

When Soo Jin (Lee Bo Young), a temporary elementary school teacher, realises that one of her students Hye Na (Heo Yool) is being abused at home by her family, she makes an impulsive decision to rescue Hye Na and in doing so, she decides to become her “mother”.

Not until I explore the works of Hirokazu Koreeda, did I realise the dire situation of child abandonment in Japan. It is the third largest type of child abuse in the country. Police reported record-high 80,104 cases of suspected child abuse across Japan in 2018. While in South Korea, the number reached 10,647 in the first half of 2017.

Koreeda has repeatedly brought these issues to light in some of his works, most notably are Nobody Knows (2004), which is based on a real-life child abandonment known as the “Sugamo child abandonment case” and Shoplifters (2018).

 

 

Hirokazu Koreeda’s Nobody Knows (2004) & Shoplifters (2008)

One of Koreeda’s signature themes is his constant questioning of society constructs. “What makes a family?” is a perennial theme that keeps on appearing in most of his works. Mother feels like a derivative or a fragment of that theme, challenging the notion of motherhood.

In unfair competitions of capitalistic society, those considered to be economically less valuable, hence weaker, are the first to be eliminated from the cutthroat competition. When this condition occurs in a patriarchal society, it is women who are likely being the first to be sacrificed, then children. Patriarchal society creates unrealistic demands towards women. Even when married women work in non-domestic workplace, they still are required not only to perform domestic and childcare duties, but also to care for aging relatives.

 

Mother 5
Shin Ja Young (Go Sung Hee) & Seol Ak (Son Seok Koo)

Shin Ja Young (Go Sung Hee), Hye Na‘s biological mother, is a product of this cruel condition. Unable to stand on her own, she thought she finally found liberation in a man, Seol Ak (Son Seok Koo). She creates an illusion of escaping misery only to find out later that it won’t happen. Trapped between desperation and illusion, Ja Young, along with her abusive boyfriend, abandons Hye Na. Ja Young seems to suffer from post-partum depression and she keeps blaming Hye Na for her miserable life until the end. Rather than creating monsters out of these damaged and deranged parents, Mother also reveals the intertwined social factors behind their abusive actions, though still not justifies them.

(Writer’s note: Though eight years apart since the original version aired, this case bears an eerie resemblance to Ja Young – Hye Na – Seol Ok’s part of the story.)

 

 

Soo Jin (Lee Bo Young) & Hye Na (Heo Yool)

Unlike many real-life child abuse and abandonment cases which end in tragedy, Hye Na was quite lucky to be found by Soo Jin, outside in the cold winter night, inside a black garbage bag. From then on, Soo Jin and Hye Na (and consequently people around them) embark on a journey to find a safe haven, and eventually the meaning of “mother” (and family). Soo Jin refuses to be a bystander despite her disinterest in marriage and forming a family of her own (initially), even if that makes her a criminal.

When Soo Jin was asked why she did not turn to the police or the authorities for help, she replied “Hye Na needed immediate protection. And I didn’t want Hye Na to have to explain what happened to her multiple times, to strangers.” This indicates a criticism towards governmental and children related (such as school and welfare centre) institutions’ failure to notice signs of child abuse and negligence in handling child abuse reports which often times lead to horrifying consequences.

 

 

Mother

 

Mother puts women at the centre of its conversation and in the process, the choices they make liberate them from patriarchy construct of female identities without having to demonise men. From Soo Jin and Hye Na, to Young Sin (Lee Hye Young) and Nam Hong-Hee (Nam Gi Ae), both are Soo Jin’s mothers, to Hyun Jin (Go Byo Geol), Soo Jin’s sister; each and every one of them takes ownership of their own lives. While men around them; Jae Beom (Lee Jung Yeol), Young Sin’s personal (and family) assistant and Jin Hong (Lee Jae Yoon), a doctor who was initially introduced to Soo Jin as a potential partner; serve as part of the Kang family support system. They are around, help when needed, but never intervened. It is a utopian idea indeed, but probably needed to keep the hope and dream alive.

 

 

Hye Na (Heo Yool) & Young Sin (Lee Hye Young)

The show is graced with strong performances from all of its actors, but it is undoubtedly Heo Yool, who was selected among 400 other audition participants, who steals the spotlight as a resilient child fighting life’s cruelty. She displays the psychological impact of a child-abuse victim in an impressive array of emotions.

TV shows sees patriarch in power all the time, but rarely a matriarch in power. Young Sin (Lee Hye Young) is one those very few. She is divorced, then she adopted and raised children on her own. As a star actress who gained fame and fortune on her own, she can afford not to care about society’s opinion and social stigma. Lee Hye Young and Heo Yool show a beautiful and heartwarming relationship between two strangers who decided to become a family.

 

In a nation where blood ties are presumed to be the base of every nuclear family, much like Kore-eda’s movie, Mother also demonstrates that there are many alternatives to a family (or in this case, mother) and none of them is abnormal as long as there is love and care.

 

Dissecting Neo-Liberalism – Life / Laipeu (라이프) (2018)

Lee Soo Yeon is back. And she’s back with a bang.

Life - Lee Soo Yeon 2
Writer Lee Soo Yeon

On 2017 Secret Forest’s review, I wrote:

                “I always find the most successful K-dramas (read: satisfying) are the ones that meticulously connect multiple aspects of human lives, where individuals are part of a larger collective, hence our personal problems always intersect with larger and more complex problems within the social system. And this is what sets Secret Forest apart from the surge of legal dramas in 2017.”

Still rings true.

This year, Lee is back with another drama that once again sets hers apart from the others of the same genre. Last year she did law, this year she does medical, but the objects of her interest remain the same. Socio-Politics.

If there is one subject that most medical dramas try to avoid, it has to be the capitalism in health care. In Hollywood, where most of the country’s systems are built on capitalism and liberal values, drama makers take a long detour from going to the roots of health care problems and instead, they choose to present feel-good and inspirational stories that come out from (supposedly) though times, and of course, the no-exit labyrinth of love relations among hospital workers. But so strong is Hollywood’s influence that we also find these patterns elsewhere.

And then Life appears.

With Life, it’s probably safe to say that it has become Lee Soo Yeon’s signature to depict the complexity of society’s intersected problems through non-black-and-white characters. We won’t find doctors with miraculous hands holding a scalpel in the operating room or blood splattering the emergency room. In fact, there are very little medical drama clichés seen in this drama.

For the first time in I can’t remember how long (probably never), we see doctors and medical practitioners portrayed as mere humans. No superheroes with hearts of gold, just human beings whose idealism is often times overpowered by their own ego, ambition and agendas. Lee mocks doctors’ deep-rooted elitism which for the longest time has made them arrogant beings playing demi-God.

 

Ye Jin Woo (Lee Dong Wook) & Goo Seung Hyo (Jo Seung Woo)

Set in a top university medical centre, Life depicts what seemingly a power struggle between a patient-centred ER doctor and the hospital’s newly-appointed CEO, but as it progresses, the show unveils unequal fights in every level of hospital’s hierarchy. Oppressing from the very top of the hierarchy is the chaebol (a large family-owned business conglomerate), and oppressed on the very bottom is the pariahs, ER personnel. But the real battle here is none other than socialism VS capitalism.

Much like Jung Sung Joo (Heard It Through ‘The Grapevine, Secret Affair, A Wife’s Credentials), the charm of Lee Soo Yeon’s works is her eloquent multilayered narration. She understands the great importance of individual-collective interrelations in dissecting systemic problems within a society. And because of that, her stories always need a troop of actors to portray the complexity. Some of Life’s casts are also part of Secret Forest’s ensemble. In fact, it almost feels like Secret Forest + Prison Playbook + Just Between Lovers big reunion.

Life - Casts

With an impressive assemblage of talented actors, it’s a bit of a let-down to see that the weakest link lies in the performance of the lead actor, Lee Dong Wook, who plays Ye Jin Woo, the ER doctor. Though still considered good compared to his previous works, he’s obviously no comparison to powerhouses such as Jo Seung Woo (Goo Seung Hyo, Sangkook Univerity Hospital’s newly appointed CEO), Lee Kyu Hyung (Ye Sun Woo, Judge of the Health Insurance Evaluation Committee and an orthopedic specialist, who is also Ye Jin Woo‘s brother), Yoo Jae Myung (Joo Kyung Moon, Head of the Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery), and Jung Moon Sung (Jo Nam Hyung, Chairman of Hwajung Group). Thankfully, he is saved by the immaculate script and great directing.

Jo Seung Woo, Lee Kyu Hyung, Yoo Jae Myung, Jung Moon Sung

With two consecutive outstanding dramas as a start, I can’t wait to see what Lee Soo Yeon has in store.

2017 – A Year in K-Drama

 

Earlier on, I thought 2017 was all going to be about time travels in the land of K-drama. The year is opened with Tomorrow with You (내일 그대와), then followed by Tunnel (터널), Chicago Typewriter (시카고 타자기), The Best Hit (최고의 한방), My Only Love Song (마이 온리 러브송), Reunited Worlds (다시 만난 세계), Deserving of the Name (명불허전) and Go Back Couple (고백부부), just to name a few.

But halfway to the end of the year, 2017 turned out to be about upholding justice and deconstructing and reconstructing traditional and conservative values. From feminism, gender equality to social justice, many 2017 dramas are offering alternative perspectives to the rather demanding and exhausting widely accepted values. This probably can be seen as a means of escapism from the dreadful reality of Hell Joseon. Strongest Deliveryman in particular talks about escaping this heartbreaking living conditions.

Quoting from Korea Exposé, ”To the South Korean state demanding life, denizens of Hell Joseon answer: “The best thing for a South Korean is never to be born; the second best is to die as soon as possible. For the young South Koreans who have grown to detest their nation, the Republic of Korea — Daehan Min’guk — already ceased to exist some time ago. They now call this land Daehan Mangguk: the Failed State of Korea.”

As alternatives to the cliché love story between a chaebol and a poor girl, this year, K-drama offers love stories between the mediocre in Fight For My Way (, 마이웨이) and the beautiful proletarian love in Just Between Lovers (그냥 사랑하는 사이). In the ultra-competitive dystopian “survival of the fittest” job market and education system where everything wrong about free market (crony) capitalism is amplified to its logical extreme, watching the lives of the working class commoners feels like a relief breath from the suffocating always-on-the-run life.

Age Of Youth 2 (청춘시대 2), Temperature of Love (사랑의 온도) and Because This Is My First Life (이번 생은 처음이라) argue the gender stereotypes and reconstruct conservative family and relationship values. Age Of Youth 2 even brought up issues still considered taboo in South Korea.

I also find a pleasant progress in many of this year’s romantic themed dramas, which is consent. More and more writers seem to emphasise the importance of consent and mutual agreement as K-dramas, especially in the romantic themed ones, are so used to patriarchy, and even worse, misogyny. Man grabbing woman’s hand and drags her around, man forcefully kiss woman where she eventually gives up and falls into his charm after a short resistance are some of the common scenes seen in K-dramas. Romanticising dating violence unfortunately is (unconsciously) widely accepted, that even The Korean Communications Standards Commission (KCSC) ruled out one very problematic scene in Our Gab Soon as portraying dating violence. The scene looks like a rape attempt. Misogynist.

Temperature of Love (사랑의 온도), Because This Is My First Life (이번 생은 처음이라) and again, Just Between Lovers (그냥 사랑하는 사이) came like a fresh breeze, the answers to misogynist dramas, where consent does matter, and men and women are not an entirely different breed, and  women have the initiatives and make the first moves. Without belittling the effort, the offered ideas may look slightly basic or elementary, but it also needs to come into consideration that many things are taken in an extreme level in South Korea, these also include patriarchy and gender biases, and not to be left out, superficiality.

2017 also sees K-drama writers exploring new themes, like sci-fi in Circle, said to be the first in K-drama, followed by Duel; a common theme in movies, but rather rarely seen in K-drama and a prison life in Wise Prison Life / Prison Playbook (which is introduced as “Black is the New Orange” spin-off in Netflix).

If last year tvN and JTBC’s dramas dominated the top list, this year tvN’s sister station, OCN shoots to prominence with its signature crime dramas. OCN even pulled off a hat-trick with Tunnel, Duel and Save Me.

No drama really stands out this year, which makes it more difficult in compiling the list. Having said that, there are so many good, even great, dramas with varied themes that are really worth to watch. So, here are the top 10/11 of 44 dramas I managed to watch in 2017.