Parasite, written by director Bong Joon Ho with Han Jin Won, instantly sets up the social standing of the lead characters by setting the opening scene of the film in their “semi-basement home”. In Korea this is an immediate indication that they are poor, although there is some hope because they are not totally underground.
And so we are instantly visually introduced to the world of our lead characters.
The opening dialogue is carefully crafted, highlighting the contrast between the poor family and their rich upstairs neighbour, who has locked their WiFi and blocked the poor family below from sponging off of them. (Hopefully you get the direct reference to the title here in the opening line.)
Looking for the signal is an inspired device that allows the writers to have Ki-Woo move around the cramped space not only revealing their living circumstances, but introducing us to the family members and their relationship to each other at the same time.
“The true horror and fear of Parasite isn’t just about how the present-day situation is bad but that it will only continue to get worse…”
– Bong Joon Ho
Here is the opening scene from the original screenplay;
The scene also reveals other important information about the family; Chung-sook doesn’t have a job, Ki-tek is lazy, they are so poor that they have to eat mouldy bread, their phones have been suspended, and they have no plan to get money.
All in all an accomplished set-up; the characters are established and ready for something to happen that will change their lives forever. (That something arrives a little later when their world starts to collide with the world of the rich, which appears in the form of Ki-woos’ friend Min-hyuk.)
As so often happens in films that are directed by the screenwriter, things change before the script reaches the screen… and so for your interest and comparison, here is a transcript of the opening scene as it appears in the final film;
VIEW THE OPENING SCENE FROM PARASITE