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Settings in 'Parasite' highlight sharp contrast between rich, poor

All Headlines 14:00 June 05, 2019

SEOUL, June 5 (Yonhap) -- With Cannes-crowned "Parasite" crushing the South Korean box office, the film's major settings of two very different houses and their behind-the-scene stories have caught the eyes of audiences here.

The movie, directed by eclectic auteur Bong Joon-ho, is a tale of two families, one rich and one poor, who become entangled, leading to a series of unexpected violent mishaps. It starts by depicting the miserable life of Ki-taek (played by Song Kang-ho)'s family, living in a ramshackle, slummy semi-basement, with a strip of window through which the family can see a drunken man urinating against their house.

Later, the story moves to the airy, spacious, pristine modernist mansion as Ki-taek's son, Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik), gets a job tutoring the teenage daughter of wealthy Mr. Park (Lee Sun-kyun), the CEO of an IT firm.

This image, provided by CJ Entertainment, shows a scene in "Parasite." (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

The director said he and his staff built the houses from the get-go to embody his main concept of class hierarchy and polarization.

The setting was designed and constructed by Bong's art team with all the care and attention to detail that he uses to write his characters. It has a wide open, clear glass facing the well-maintained garden, but also features a spate of hiding spots and corners that block characters' sight of each other.

"When I was writing the screenplay, the movement of the characters in the setting was already in my head," Bong said. "From one spot of the house, you can hear a person on the other side, but he or she can't see you. This structure was the most important."

Also, Mr. Park's architect-designed house had to look opulent and gaudy, in contrast to the poverty-stricken appearance of Ki-taek's.

The movie's art director, Lee Ha-jun, said he filled the house with expensive, high-end furniture, home appliances and props, and decorated with luxurious, lavish wallpaper and drawings from cellar to rafter. Even the trees in the garden were carefully chosen by the design team.

"In order to show the clear contrast to the semi-basement village, I used staid, composed colors and materials to build the house and stuffed it with furniture and drawings," Lee said.

The detail amazed Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, the president of the jury at Cannes, who asked Bong how he had found such a perfect house, according to Bong.

Ki-taek's house, on the other hand, was part of the stage setting of a shantytown built in a studio in Ilsan, northwest of Seoul. Lee and his staff installed old-fashioned tiles, doors, window frames and other features to make it look squalid and grotty.

"When we were building the setting, it rained so much and so often that painting and tiles kept coming off the wall due to humidity," the art director said. "We fixed them again and again, and it helped the village look even more worn-out."

This image, provided by CJ Entertainment, shows a scene in "Parasite." (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

brk@yna.co.kr
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