In less than three decades, South Korea has managed to become a developed country and has grown rapidly in different aspects such as science, industry, and technology. Meanwhile, South Korean culture and art also made their way around the globe, for example in form of TV-series and Hollywood-inspired movies in different genres. At the moment, Korean director Joon-ho Bong is particularly successful. His movie Parasite won the Golden Palm at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival.
By guest author Parisa Sadeghpour
Parasite follows a poor family whose members, despite having economic issues, are calm, wise and thoughtful people trying to keep up with modern society. They are looking for jobs, try to connect with today’s world and live happily with each other. The starting scene of the movie, with the camera moving down from the street, shows the place they live in. Not much later we get to know that this family uses their neighbor’s WiFi connection to connect with the world outside – just like a parasite.
This family has been driven down to the bottom of society. They are constantly treated like insects that should be killed in order to not annoy the rich. This leads to a hidden inferiority complex deep in their soul which at the end explodes like a volcano. Although they are trying their best, they can’t find a decent job until the son becomes the tutor for a wealthy family and his friend gives him the stone of luck as a small gift. At this point, the audience is introduced to the upper class of the society.
Struggle for survival
Bong Joon-ho has beautifully illustrated the class distinctions in Korea’s society. This might feel a bit familiar to the people who have watched his other work, Snowpiercer. You will find scenes in Parasite that try to make this economical gap more tangible for the audience. For example, there is a scene where Ms. Park, the mother of the rich family, enjoys the nice weather after the rain, while the poor part of the town has been considerably damaged by the flood, leaving many
Parasite is a movie you can watch more than once.
There are quite a lot of comparisons like this throughout the whole movie and the economical gap becomes manifest in the poor family's struggle for survival. In a world that gets harder to live in day by day, many people would do anything to continue their life, whether it is using financial strength or just fighting tooth and nail for keeping what they have.
Considering the fast industrialization of South Korea, the country is experiencing problems common to post-industrial societies, such as a gaps between the rich and the poor, social polarization, and social welfare issues. Therefore, Korean cinema would reflect such issues in movies like Parasite.
Bong Joon-ho doesn’t give a specific solution but the concept of returning to one's true self is shown using metaphorical ways. The main symbol is the stone of luck. It is used in different ways through different sections of the movie. During early scenes it is a sign of luck and happiness. There is a scene where Mr. Kim, dad of the poor family, asks his son why he carries the stone with him and son’s answer is “it doesn’t leave me.” – the stone is a symbol for his luck.
However, the son gets hurt by the very stone at the end of the movie. At the end the stone returns to a river, its origin, and the camera moves down again – as it did at the beginning.
Parasite is a movie you can watch more than once. It has a powerful and well-written screenplay, accompanied by a great cast including Kang-ho Song, who shines as Mr. Kim. This movie can not be categorized in one genre. It’s a drama, comedy, black comedy, crime, and it ends with a tragedy. It can make you think about the paths you have chosen to walk as a person,a member of a family or even a member of a huge social system just by showing how one's actions can affect others entire life.