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Exploring the Cinematic Genius of the 2019 Film ‘Parasite’

Image courtesy of Houston Coley.

When watching the movie Parasite, I was astonished by the creative plot and major themes revolving around the movie. Not only was I taken away by the constant suspense portrayed by the brilliant actors, but I was also amazed at how closely this film reflects problems in our current society.

Parasite was directed by Bong Joon-ho, who is most famously known for directing thrillers such as Okja and Snowpiercer, and was released on October 5, 2019. The movie was an obvious masterpiece, grossing 205 million dollars globally and receiving 6 oscar awards, including: “Best Picture,” “Best Director,” and “Best Original Screenplay.” Parasite became the fourth highest-grossing foreign-language film in the US, but what made this movie so successful?

Plot (Spoilers)

Parasite revolves around two families: the Kims and the Parks. The Kims are extremely poor, struggling to survive in a dirty, run-down basement in the lower class district of Seoul while the Parks are wealthy, living lavishly in a modernistic house designed by a famous architect. Luckily, Ki-Woo, the son of the Kims, gets an opportunity to work for the Parks as a tutor. The family then develops an entire plan to get the Parks to hire their entire family as workers. They do this by framing the current maid for having a deadly, contagious disease and making it seem like the butler was involved in sexual activity in Mr. Park’s car. The Kims then recommend each other as replacements for the workers without telling the Parks that they are a family. The Parks, thus, fire the maid and butler and hire the Kims as replacements, oblivious to the fact that they are actually related.

However, the family runs into trouble when they discover the former maid’s husband living in a cellar beneath the house. The maid and her husband realize that the Kims are all related and threatens to tell the Parks about the news. The Kims ultimately overcome the couple, nearly killing them both and locking them in the cellar. 

At the end of the film, the maid’s husband escapes the cellar, knocking out Ki- Woo with a rock and killing his sister with a knife. Chaos ensues, and Mrs. Kim kills the husband with a metal skewer while Mr. Kim kills Mr. Park with a knife. 

2 months pass from the tragic event and Mrs. Kim and Ki-Woo are charged with fraud but do not serve any time in prison. One night, Ki-Woo decides to go to the Parks’ residence and discovers that his father is living in the underground cellar. The movie ends with Ki-Woo promising his father that, one day, he will make enough money to buy the house and free his father from that prison. 

Parasite was a cinematical masterpiece. The film does an incredible job generating sympathy for the Kims as it perfectly grasps their desperate state and living situation. Thus, viewers are in constant suspense as to what may happen to the Kims during their plot to manipulate the Parks and how long this plan can last. The conflict between the Kims and the couple living under the house is also shocking as viewers are forced to consider how the Kims will be able to handle this situation. Furthermore, Parasite’s ending is not like that of any traditional thriller. It ends on a dark and gloomy note that shocks the audience as the family they became so attached to throughout the film is now separated. The ending compels the audience to question whether or not Ki-Woo can fulfill his dream of buying the Parks’ house and freeing his father. Some viewers who decide to look more into Parasite’s ending may feel even more remorse for the Kims when they discover that it would have taken 564 years for Ki-Woo to make enough money to buy the Parks’ house. 

I believe that Parasite deserved to win all of its Oscars not only because of its enticing plot and stark and depressing ending but because of the societal themes underlying the film.

Themes

There are multiple thematic elements present in Parasite, but I believe that the idea of class divide and how it reflects how our society’s upper class views the lower class helped make this movie stand out. 

This class division is primarily evident during a flooding scene towards the end of the movie. When a massive storm occurs, the Parks view the event as comforting and pleasing as it allowed Da-Song to sleep outside in their backyard in a tent and helped clear the air pollution the next day.

However, the storm is devastating for the Kims. It causes water to overflow from sewer pipes, drains, and toilets that flood the Kim family’s entire neighborhood, destroying precious belongings and leaving those residents homeless for the night. The Kims are then forced to sleep in a gym along with hundreds of other people whose homes were destroyed. 

The morning after, the Parks invite the Kims over to celebrate Da-Song’s birthday and asks Mr. Kim if he can help run some errands for the celebration. On her way shopping, Mrs. Park announces her gratitude for the storm as it created perfect weather for the party, oblivious of the fact it destroyed Mr. Kim’s home. 

This statement, of course, angers Mr. Kim as he realizes that the upper class really has no care or consideration for the poor. The Parks do not understand how hard the Kims’ lives are, taking their wealth for granted while thousands of people are suffering in poverty. They see this storm as a blessing for them but are unaware of how it destroyed the Kims’ home and left hundreds of other people homeless. 

The Parks’ attitude towards this storm is similar to our society’s upper class. Some of these people may also take their wealth and living situation for granted, thankful for events that are beneficial to them but unaware of how those events may ruin the lives of others. 

I think what Bong Joon-ho is trying to tell us through this flooding scene is how wealth and power should not divide us. We are all human beings, whether some of us are richer than others, and consideration and care between these people is always the most important thing to consider. 

Parasite shows the unfairness of the class divide in our society and perfectly depicts this theme between the Parks and the Kims. While the film may be dark with its situations, I believe that it ultimately deserved all its awards for its incredible plots and themes that reflect our current world. But, of course, that is just my opinion.

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