You have been warned: stay away. Spoilers abound.
This masterpiece film is so hilarious until suddenly and almost abruptly, it isn’t anymore. Bong Joon Ho’s film “Parasite” has created even more noise all around the globe after winning Best Picture in the 92nd Academy Awards. Joon Ho also snatched the Best Director while the film also received the Original Screenplay and the Best International Feature Film awards.
“Parasite” has made history at the 2020 Oscars as it is the first non-English film to win the most prestigious and coveted award in the Academy.
Prior to this triumph of the film, “Parasite” has already been an achievement for the amazing team behind it. It has won Palme d’Or, the top prize at the Cannes film festival and the Golden Globes’ Best Foreign Language Film as well as the Best Cast in a Motion Picture at the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). Despite all the success, the rawness and the essence of the film evoke emotions and hits you at your very core. It makes you question a lot of things, and several times in the movie, you may catch yourself with your jaw dropped open.
The film stirs up feelings of hilarity, sadness, anger, pity, and wonder, among others. The film has explored themes that make it fall into different genres and thus, creating an entire novel genre in itself. However, one thing is sure, this dark satire of Bong Joon Ho is an absolute masterpiece. It is a fusion of reality and absurdity, and it embodies beautiful complexities that evoke both repulsion and empathy from its viewers.
The Satire: Compassion, Cruelty, and Contrast
The movie explores the struggle of the poor Kim family and their lives’ haunting contrast to that of the wealthy Park family. This riveting satire of Bong Joon Ho portrays class conflict and discrimination on a whole new level, and it is relevant as it is tense.
The disparity between the families is appropriately framed around the homes of the Kim and Park family. The Kim family is depicted as residents in a flood-prone, semi-basement apartment, with a drunk neighbor who usually tries to piss in front of their house. Meanwhile, they also try and leech off their neighbor’s internet connection and make ends meet by working as subcontracts to fold pizza boxes. On the other hand, the Park family lives in a beautiful glasshouse with a view of a beautiful garden and nice interior lights. Their home was designed and initially owned by a world-class architect.
The Kims infiltrate the family and the lavish home of the Parks through their wit, talent, and creative strategy. Their lives are all of a sudden entangled together but would eventually be divided with new tiers—the “upstairs” and the “downstairs.”
The Tutor, the Art Therapist, the Housekeeper, and the Driver
Ki-woo becomes a tutor to the Park’s daughter, Park Da-hae thanks to his friend’s referral as well as his sister’s amazing Photoshop skills in counterfeiting his credentials. This big break has led to the steady penetration of the Kim family into the Park household.
Kim Ki-jung becomes the art therapist for the young son of the Parks, Da-song. She is upfront in charging good money from the Park matriarch as Ki-jung’s cunning has made her student’s mother believe that there was a real struggle in the boy that she knew how to address through art therapy which turns out, she just Googled about.
Eventually, their mother becomes the Park’s housekeeper, and it was only realized by getting rid of the previous housekeeper who has lived longer than the Park family in the luxurious house. Their success in eliminating her had to do with peach allergies, fake tuberculosis, and a well-thought-of plan by the Kims.
And as a final breakthrough, the Kim patriarch Ki-taek infiltrates the Park family through the smarts of his daughter. Ki-taek’s infiltration into the lives of the Parks is as smooth as the Mercedes Benz he drives as the new family driver.
The Kims have been struggling to survive, and by some stroke of luck or perhaps lack of it, all members of the Kim family find themselves in the opulent home of the Parks, making it appear as if they only know each other through acquaintances and vague networks.
The Good, the Bad, the Ugly
On the other side of the spectrum is the Park family. They are very affluent and nice according to the Kim family but maybe a little too trusting for their own good. They have welcomed the tutor, the art therapist, the housekeeper, and the driver into their home. One may even feel bad for them—paying good money but clueless that they are being played on by the scheming Kim family.
As the class struggle is emphasized throughout the entire film, and the disparity becomes more and more striking, the Kim family appears to be devious and manipulative. Although they portray hilarious characters, the rawness of their struggles makes one feel bad and emphatic at the same time.
The experiences and challenges that the Kim family has had, when met with an opportune moment like working for the Parks make one feel repulsed at their scheming tactics while feeling some sort of understanding that survival may push a person to do maneuvers in order to survive.
The Parks have more than enough on their plate, and the impoverished Kims have benefited from the scraps falling off the tables of their opulent employers, and this was made possible by their cunning and to an extent, their ruthless approach.
The Tiers: Up and Down
Aside from the striking contrast of the homes of the Kims and the Parks, the major twist comes in the form of an upstairs versus downstairs kind of life. For those who have watched the film, the absurd idea of having a third family in the picture heightens the film’s focus on deception due to desperation and poverty.
The poor families from two different basements have similar goals: leech off their hosts and survive. What their employers have is excessive, and it is something they believe they could benefit from. However, when parasites clash and compete in sucking more out of their host, the inevitable happens, they realize that at the end, it is still survival of the fittest and that they are still bound together—the parasite to its host and the host to its parasite.
#Parasite has been nominated for ‘Outstanding Performance By a Cast in a Motion Picture’ #SAGAwards
Ki-taek, who, according to the Park patriarch smelled of boiled rags, realized that his life as an employee is still bound to that of his employer in the course of servitude even when his own daughter was fighting for her own life. It is then that the parasite has had some resolve to end his host.
The last hurrah of the film was some form of wheel turning again towards a new chapter, but not entirely for the better, as there will still be wealthy people who will eventually live “upstairs” while the unfortunate will remain to live “downstairs.”
There is that dragging and tedious period for the parasite to find another host. Otherwise, survival is out of the picture. The viewers may feel rocked by the conclusion of the film, but it has effectively demonstrated inequality and the stark contrast of people within a spectrum. Sometimes, that is what is left: the fantasy of the poor, hoping that one day they will be out of the bunkers and that they will be the ones to bask under the sun, live above the ground, and rise way above the spectrum.