Secret messages in Oscar-winning South Korean movie "PARASITE"
Parasites are scary worm-like organisms that live inside bodies and steal nutrients. Who knew that a film with such an unglamorous name would earn such magnificent achievements. Filled with suspense, action and mystery, Parasite not only keeps viewers on the edge of their seats with tis dark, comedic plot. it also contains many intellectual meanings and messages, reflecting on deep-rooted problems in society. Following the film's major twist, Parasite continues in a far darker tone until it's ending. "Parasite" seems, for the most part, to fulfill Bong's strong and admirable intentions. It conveys the sense that he made the movie with the desire, the will to show something, that he has in mind, that troubles him, and that ought to be trouble viewers-and show it in a form that's sufficiently entertaining, sufficiently within the standards and codes of genre films, that significant number of viewers will trouble themselves to see it and make a note of what they've seen.
Bong Joon-ho's achievement contains many hidden comments about society, especially the wealth gap between the rich and poor.
Double meaning of the word ‘Parasite’
Most of us assume the title Parasite is a metaphor for the poor Kim family and the rich Park family. After all, the Kims' infiltrate the Parks' home, lying their way into taking high-class jobs in their house. However, the director revealed that the word "parasite" has a double meaning. Aside from describing the poor leeching money off the rich, the Park family is also a parasite. Without the ability to wash dishes or tidy their house, they use their money to exploit poor families with their cheap labor. In a way, they, too, are parasites in society.
The huge gap between the rich and poor
The Kim's impoverished living environment is depicted in tantalizing detail. Even the opening scene of the Kims living in the small semi-basement apartment, trying to get a Wi-fi signal from a nearby café while their mother folds pizza boxes for a living, already speaks volumes. The huge income gap is further demonstrated when Kim Ki-woo visits the Park family’s house, the mansion everyone dreams of: a spacious two-storey home with a basement, a huge field/garden, luxurious furniture and modern gadgets.
The contrast in the quality of life between the rich and poor cannot be more drastic. Wealth inequality is a common problem in most modern cities. In Hong Kong, the richest live in huge residences in the Mid Levels or Repulse Bay, with private pools, wine cellars, and all sorts of luxuries. The poorest, on the other hand, live in subdivided flats, sleeping right next to toilets, and some even in cage homes, with not enough space to stretch.
Only on the surface
In the film, the Park family's son Da-song’s passionate interest for “Indians” (which are actually Native Americans) is shown throughout the movie. However, this is a major hint to the ironic message in Parasite: that the long, complicated, history of Native Americans has been reduced to a child’s hobby with little meaning. In fact, this cleverly mirrors exactly what is happening in our society right now.
In the 21st century, modern technology christened the birth of social media, making trends even more fast-paced and instant. Trendsetters and celebrities influence millions of people to adapt their fashion sense and interests. Because of this, many of what we call “hobbies” only exist on a superficial level. For example, many Western celebrities enjoy wearing clothes with Chinese or Japanese words on them, but don't actually understand the history and development of these two languages, or even what the words mean.
A tale of two cities
One of Parasite’s most prominent comparisons is the completely different lives the two families lead. While the Parks worry about making their son happy and trying to cure his restlessness by finding an art therapist and hosting glamorous birthday parties for him, the Kims are struggling to make ends meet with the meagre income they have. On the night of a terrible rainstorm, the Park family is disappointed that they have to cancel a camping trip for their son, while the Kims lose their home to the flood triggered by the storm. This is the most ironic but truthful event that leaves an impression on all viewers.
In a way, we are similar to the Parks too. While we worry about getting good results on exams and high marks at school, there are others fretting about where they will get their next meal. Parasite reminds us of the marginalized groups in society.
“Parasite” is a satirically comedic thriller about poverty, about the contrast between the rich and the poor, about the injustice of inequality, that avoids the conventions and habits of realistic social dramas. The settings are crucial to the movie. Bong wants to show specific places that stand in for many others of the same sort. One is a cramped, substandard, subterranean “semi-basement” apartment in which a poor family of four lives, at the end of a dead end, where they’re vulnerable both to social and environmental hazards. He contrasts that with a rich and frivolous family’s lavish, well-protected, spacious, comfortable, architecturally distinguished and aesthetically pleasing villa that, nonetheless, conceals and symbolizes the agony of the deprived and the despised.
Parasite's Won much more than the best picture
South Korean thriller Parasite -- a dark comedy about modern poverty and wealth that has brought down language barriers to open new audiences to foreign film - can now call itself a history making Oscar Winner.
Its best original screenplay Oscar was the first Asian win in that category, and the first for a Korean in any category. It comes after the 100th anniversary of Korean cinema in 2019.
Parasite also snapped up the prize for best international feature film, as was widely expected. The vicious satire about social inequality had already scooped up the Palme d'Or in Cannes last year and the award for best foreign language film at last month's Golden Globes -- also firsts for a South Korean movie.
It was the first foreign-language film to win the coveted top prize for best ensemble at the Screen Actors Guild awards, and snapped up two Baftas for best non-English-language film and original screenplay.
'Money is an iron'
The film follows a family of clever scammers from South Korea's underclass, plotting for each of them to secure work in an affluent household in Seoul -- as tutors, a driver and a housekeeper.
All unemployed at the start of the movie, the four live in a dingy, roach-infested basement flat -- whose damp odor clings to them beyond its confines -- without access to Wi-Fi in one of the world's most technologically advanced countries.
Along their way, they forge a university degree and orchestrate a series of lies -- which later lead to harrowing violence at the spacious house where they work, whose elegant décor hides a host of secrets.
Critical reaction has been overwhelmingly positive.
The film does a good job of (showing) how poverty and wealth are inextricably intertwined; the rich are parasitic on the poor, as the poor are on the rich.
The success of "Parasite" comes despite the global dominance of the English language, a perennial challenge for filmmakers working in other tongues and doubly so in the world's biggest cinema market. Parasite was deeply rooted in its depiction of Korean society without having to pander in any way to foreign audiences.