Synopsis: Kim Ki-woo lives on the edge of poverty with his family. They steal WiFi from their neighbors, work on minimum wage jobs and live in a basement apartment. Kim Ki-woo’s life changes when he gets an offer from his friend to work as an English tutor, because the friend was going to study abroad. The friend is infatuated with the girl and wants his friend to be around during his absence to avoid others being around his crush. The young man accepts the offer, changes his name to Kevin and starts tutoring Park Da-hye, who quickly falls in love with “Kevin”. Once among the Parks, Kevin develops a different plan:he wants to get his family into the Park family. Will he succeed to get his poor family into the Parks? If yes, will the Kims, the poor family, become as rich and privileged as the Parks?
Parasite, by Bong Joon Ho, is the film of the year. It won the Palme d’Or at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival. Apart from its numerous accolades, Parasite won 4 awards at the 92nd Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best International Feature film. This is the first non-English language film to win Best Picture Award. It won the Best Foreign Language Film at the 77th Golden Globe Awards. It won the Best Film Not in the English Language and the Best Original Screenplay awards at the 73rd British Academy Film Awards.
A bell that rings right at the beginning of the film is there to verify if all the speakers of the theater function properly or not. The bell is there to be compared to the plurality of voices a society produces. Like the bell, there are many others symbols in this film that deserve to be studies closely.
The food in the film often symbolizes the same notion of “up and down”. The noodles, the cheaper food, are made for Kim family, while the beef, the expensive one, is for the Parks. The rain in the film plays the same role as the food. It emphasizes the opposite perceptions that individuals from two different social classes have about the same thing and how that same thing influences them differently.
Water symbolizes the reality and the stone symbolizes false hopes. Water always goes down and not up and can damage those who live “down”, the poor. This was the case when the strong rain came and damage the Kims’ house.
Parasite foreshadowing: the scene, where the fumigation happens, the daughter attempts to close the window, but the father tells not to, because it is a “free extermination”. Everyone starts coughing, except from the father. During another occasion, the daughter says that she fit in well with the Parks, but ironically she is the first to die. When it comes to the father, he is the only one to continue his life in the basement, just like he was the only one, who was not afraid of the smoke. When it comes to the Indian theme, it is a foreshadowing for the fate of the Parks family.
Bong Joon-ho doesn’t portray the rich as villains neither the poor as victims. The borderline between the bad and the good is opaque: we do not know for which character we should cultivate the most empathy. Deep down, they may all have the same insecurities and worldviews with very slight differences…apart from the smell…, because “they all smell the same” according to the Parks. Is it because of the subway, or the soap they use, or the basement smell? It is just a metaphor: the smell symbolizes the poor. By the way, during birthday festivities, the father of the Parks family is killed by the father of the Kims’ family following his disgust towards the smell of their first housekeeper’s husband.
One of the highly used symbols is the concept of “up and down” or “high and low” for class representation. Parks’ house is located at the highest point of the town. The upper-class family of Parks rarely looks down on the floor. They always look forward or up, which means that their house’s employees hide easily under their tables, in the ground-floor or elsewhere if/when they feel that hiding is necessary. The notion of “parasite” is recurrent and questions what exactly it means. Who exactly is “parasite”: the poor or the rich. Are there any parasites? What if everybody are parasites?
One of the most important points of this film is the fact that people fight against each other. Even those, who are down, fight mercilessly for keeping their place in the Parks’s house even if it means living in the basement. They lack a lot of solidarity.
Parks’ son has an obsession with native Americans. For his birthday, the native American theme is highly used. It represents a surprise: just like the Kims, who discover that there is a family living right in the basement of the Parks’ house, the Europeans had discovered that there were native Americans living in the newly discovered continent. In both cases the result was the war and/or the fight. Moreover, during the festivities, Kim Ki-woo checks if the other family’s father is in the basement taking the stone, which was given to him by his friend as a symbol of success, symbolizing the hope for a better future, with him. That stone is only used to smash someone’s head and never brings success.
The closing scene shows Kim Ki-woo. In his letter to his father, Kim Ki-woo says that he will work until he could afford to buy the mansion and adds:”All you’ll need to do is to walk up the stairs”. This expression summarizes the myth of social mobility and supports social determinism…or is it?