An analysis of Parasite, by Bong Joo-Ho
By Luiza Ribeiro
The 2020 Academy Award winner for Best Picture Parasite is a South Korean movie directed by Bong Joon Ho. The movie showcases the reality of two very distinct families: one that lives in a cramped semi-basement and the other that lives in a luxurious mansion in South Korea. As this is an analysis of the film, there are spoilers ahead.
It is safe to affirm that this movie is an absolute masterpiece, the script, the cinematography, the acting, even the title is genius, and it is no shocker that it won an Oscar for Best Picture. A parasite is an animal that benefits off of another animal (or a so-called host) at the host’s expense, which perfectly describes the relationship between these two families. Ki-Woo (the son of the poor family), brilliantly deceives the rich mother by lying that he is a tutor and can give lessons to her daughter, as he was recommended by his friend who previously tutored her to assist Ki-Woo with his financial crisis. Ki-Woo met the son of the rich family, Da-Song, who seems to love Native American things, as he is always dressed up in a stereotypical Native American costume while having arrows to shoot around the house. As many people know, the Native Americans were brutally treated in the past, but this family is quite oblivious to less fortunate people (which I will discuss more later on) and acts like this garment is just a costume to play around with completely ignoring the historical factor behind it. This is very important to note because the rich family seems to consider products that come from America as high-quality, especially education. When Ki-Woo recommended his sister, Ki-Jung, to be Da-Song's art teacher he mentioned that she studied at Illinois State University. Because of this, the mother accepted her to teach Da-Song.
Ki-Jung is obviously not an art teacher, but, before coming to teach the boy, she does a lot of research and notices something very important. There was a pattern in the lower right corner of every painting, which meant that the boy had some kind of trauma in his life. The photo that she compared to was supposedly his self-portrait, but some attentive viewers came to realize that it wasn't himself that he was painting, but someone else. This "someone else" is responsible for the huge shift in the comedic light tone of the first half of the story to the dark and suspenseful tone of the second half of the movie, but I'll only discuss this later on, so keep reading.
The Kim’s were able to scam the whole rich family by infiltrating their father, who is now a driver for the rich dad, and the mother, who is now a cleaner for the family. But for her to be a cleaner, she had to figure out a plan to fire the previous maid who was well-positioned and beloved in the family. Oddly enough, at the beginning of the movie, it is mentioned that she worked for an architect who lived in the same house, but when he left, she insisted on staying in the house. It seemed like random information at first, but nothing in this movie is random. First. though, let's consider the architecture of the rich family’s home and Kim’s house as well as how they display a difference in social classes.
The mansion of the rich family is very minimalistic, it's so big that there is a lot of space that can be filled in, and we rarely see every family member in the same space. Meanwhile, in the Kim's house, every single space serves a multifunction and we always see the family together in the same room, which could be a metaphor for their close connection and the lack of connection of the rich family. We also notice that Bong Joon Ho was able to use the way to get to each house as symbolism for social hierarchy. The reason for this is because every time someone goes to the luxurious mansion, they have to climb a lot of stairs, which symbolizes that they are going up in social class. The opposite is also true for the low-income family, every time someone goes to the cramped semi-basement, they have to go down a set of stairs, representing that they are going down in social class. This is why when the previous maid that got fired comes in the house and asks if the Kim family wants to go down the basement with her, we feel so uncomfortable.
This is when things start to get scary. As we are heading down the stairs of the basement, we meet that "someone" that I was talking about earlier. His name was Geun-se, and he was hiding in that basement for 4 years because the police were chasing him. Now, the Kims' perfect plan isn't so perfect anymore. The mother of the Kim family threatened to call the police, but the maid (Moon-Gwang), blackmails the family, revealing their whole plan.
The Kim family can fight the two and lock them in the basement, but their situation is far from over. When they are leaving the house, heavy rain starts pouring. When they go down to their street they notice their neighbors desperately trying to get out of their houses. Since the Kim's house is a semi-basement, it is half-underground and half-overground, making it easy for the rain from the streets to enter through their open window. They enter their house and look devastated, but the scene that most shocked me in the movie was a shot of Ki-Jung lighting a cigarette over her exploding toilet while the water inside her house was rising, and it is absolutely mind-blowing. It is so metaphorical in the sense that they are trying to cover all of the negative things happening in their lives, but bad things happen to them anyway, and her smoking the cigarette symbolizing that they just want a break from all of this. I love the next scene as well because it gives us a better understanding of how two families can live in two completely different worlds. When the father is driving the rich man, the rich man mentions that it was a blessing that it rained because now the sky is blue and beautiful. This obviously has an impact on the father, who lost everything because of the rain, which is another example of the ignorance the rich family has towards the rest of the world (as I mentioned before) and shows how they are living in a "bubble".
Despite this, there isn't necessarily an antagonist in this movie. It's real, because it portrays the real world, and that is why no character in this movie is shallow, everyone has a story, which is something I always love in a movie. It is a comedy without clowns and a tragedy without villains. It has a unique storyline, it blends two very different and distinct genres perfectly, it flows; they use lighting and architecture to display a message in a subtle yet brilliant way and as the New York Times puts it, "It is an urgent story of class told in the most sensationally entertaining way", and I absolutely agree.