At my first chance to see this film, I did not hesitate to reserve my ticket at my local theater. For weeks prior to Valentine’s Day, I kept hearing about the film Parasite from word of mouth and online. Everyone was recommending the film which made me more curious. I recalled seeing on the news that Bong Joon Ho’s film had won four Academy Awards, which was unheard of for a foreign film. Americans were shocked when director Bong Joon Ho won an Oscar for Best Picture, but there was also some backlash because the film was entirely not in the English language. Some thought because it was a foreign film it shouldn’t have won. Stupid racist comments like this. If a movie with so much hype was receiving such criticism, I knew it had to be phenomenal.

#Parasite #BongJoonHo #기생충
Parasite 기생충 – Official Trailer

Initial Thoughts?

The title of the film suggested to me that the film would be about a disease. Towards the end of the film, my initial thought had changed. Instead, the title was a metaphor using the word ‘Parasite’ to describe a person. Parasite was being used synonymously as a derogatory word to describe a poor person and as a word to describe an evil person. The term was used negatively about the poor by people of wealth. Ultimately, there was this dynamic of the upper class’s perspective on the poor.

Afterthoughts?

The film had a good concept that played on the watcher’s predictability and way of thinking in sequence. Carefully placed plot twists engaged the watcher and kept the flow of the film at a good pace for the viewer. The viewer is led to believe that events will go one way, but with new evidence more details about the story is uncovered. The first example of this situation is when Min recommends Ki-woo take his place as the Park family tutor. Ki-Woo becomes the new tutor. He recommends an art student to the The Park family since they are looking for a teacher for their son. I believed that Ki-Woo was genuinely recommending a person to the madame only to discover the Kim family’s scheme to become employed at the Park residence. The characters of the film are also introduced technically, weaving together as the story progressed. Seemingly random characters turned out to be acquainted with each other like when members of the Kim family take over the business roles in the Park family home.

What Surprised Me?

The key elements that stood out in this screenplay were the cast, the numerous plot twists, and the ending of the film. The star studded cast is unique in the respect that some of the actors and actresses are familiar with one another from starring together in other works both in dramas and films. Park Seo-Joon is a popular South Korean actor known for his visuals and roles in a variety of dramas, yet in this film, his role was small. Instead, actors I was less familiar with were allowed to be spotlighted. Kang Ho Sung who played Mr. Kim, Choi Woo-Shik who played Ki-Woo, Park So-Dam who played Ki-Jung, and Lee Jung-Eun who played Moon-Gwang gave stellar performances with their characters. I was hooked into all the emotional turmoil these characters experienced in the film. I felt like I was immersed in the film while watching from the sidelines. The believability of their performances was a great contribution to Parasite’s success. The appearance of the characters also makes the film more relatable. The rich in the film dress in a tidy, stylish, modern fashion style much like Mr. and Mrs. Park. Contrastly, the Kim family dressed in ragged clothes with unkempt hair. Outside of the film all of these actors and actresses are beautiful, well groomed individuals.

Family portrait of the Park Family.
Parasite (기생충) Korean – Movie
Family photo of the Kim family.
Parasite (기생충) Korean – Movie

I thought this film was going to have a K-drama vibe with a cringey romance. I did not expect the plot to thicken when this poor family starts to con the rich. Honestly, I thought this was pretty smart. If I was in the character’s position, I would have behaved the same. Often, there are two ways the rich are portrayed in media 1). as manipulative, secretive, power hungry person or 2). extremely handsome, nice guys, with some past trauma. The rich in this film are so gullible. Who would have guessed that the Park family’s original maid would be the one to uncoil the Kim family’s scheme? This causes the Kim family to reach a level of desperation to maintain their current status, often testing their morality. This is exampled in the scene where the Kim family is trying to kill the ex-maid and her husband in order to cover their lies and keep their  façade going. All the events unfold like a web, weaving scenes together to find the hidden truth behind the Park family’s secrets-if anything is too good to be true it usually is.

Picture of the Kim family enjoying a nice meal with their new salary from the Park family
Parasite (기생충) Korean – Movie

The ending of the film provides the perfect interpretation of the struggles of the lower class to rise and make themselves be on an even level with the rich, which is why the Kim’s scheme was able to be completed successfully. The Kim family was struggling financially, so the son, Ki-Woo, took responsibility to make money. Seeing an opportunity to help out, Ki-Woo got his sister a job with the Park family. The only way this was possible was because of deceit. The Kim’s had to deceive the Park family into thinking they were reputable people. Ki-Woo faked documents and his educational background to impress Mrs. Park along with, his friend, Min’s recommendation. Mrs. Park was gullible and only trusted people who were connected to someone she knew. She had a fear of associating with the poor. This fact allowed for her to be easily deceived by the family. Kim Ki-Woo was able to recommend his whole family for different household jobs due to Mrs. Park’s distrust of outsiders.

Ki-Woo talking to Mrs. Park about Da-Song’s art. This scene sets up the scheme for the Kim family for being employed at the Park residence.
Parasite (기생충) Korean – Movie

At several points during the film, the audience saw Kim Ki-Taek being treated unfairly because of his background. Being poor, Mr. Kim’s family lived in a small basement which made him smell a certain way that repulsed his new employer, almost blowing his cover. It was actions like Mr. Park pulling his shirt up to cover his nose in the car because of Mr. Kim’s smell that alluded Ki-Taek’s increased hatred for the rich. The hostility between classes in the film is the driving force for the Kim family believing it was morally acceptable to con the Park family. There was a role reversal where we saw the Kim family becoming wealthy off the rich, but their actions had consequences such as making the others whose job they took over decline into being poor. The maid being kicked out and replaced by Mrs. Kim was a turning point in the film because Moon-Gwang’s husband was living in the basement, but you don’t find that out until later in the film.

A scene of the Kim’s living situation from Parasite
Parasite (기생충) Korean – Movie

Moon-Gwang was living there for years because of her husband. She knows the Park family are despicable people-the husband and wife. As it seems, the Kim family has achieved success and secured a brighter future; the maid’s return to see her husband brought out shocking information. It led to a fight for survival where the Kim family locked up Moon-Gwang in the basement with her husband and tied them up.

The Kim family minus the wife, who served as the maid, had to escape the house without alerting the Park family that they are all there together or else it will blow their cover. With the Park’s being home, it is no easy task. The dog under Da Hye’s bed hinting where Ki-Woo was hiding, Ki-Jung hiding under the living room table with her father and her brother, the Kakao message to Kevin (Ki-Woo) that goes off while he is hiding under the table were all actions that could have led to the Kim family’s demise. They had no choice but to hide while Mr. and Mrs. Park slept downstairs to watch their son Da-Son, who was sleeping in a tent in the yard. Dong Ik (Mr. Park) smelled Mr. Kim’s scent while on the couch unaware that he is literally feet away. Once the Kims are able to leave the house, they rushed to their home to discover it is destroyed by flooding. The Kim family believed no one else knew what happened, so they are safe since the maid is locked up.

The Kim family seemingly taking over the Park residence
Parasite (기생충) Korean – Movie

After a bloody fight, the maid died but not before teaching her disabled husband the name of her killer. This is vital to the ending of the film. The Park family threw a party for Da-Song’s birthday, inviting all four of the Kim family members back into their home. From this point, Mr. Kim was in a strange mood. Ki-Taek seemed agitated that his life was crumbling while rich people like the Park family got to host a birthday party for their son and did not share in his burdens. Again, someone commented on ‘the poor smell’ this time it was the wife who covered her nose with her finger and then rolled down the car window on the drive home. At the party, Mr. Kim is forced to participate in an enactment of a parade, which caused him to feel humiliated in front of all these rich people.

The Kim family seemed to have some humility when they decided to go in the basement again to talk to Moon-Gwang and her husband. Ki-woo brought the fortune rock to the party and attempted to give it to Geun Se as a sign of good faith. Ki-Woo entered the basement and  is captured by Geun Se who tried to kill him out of revenge for his wife’s death. Ki-Woo seemingly ended up dying, allowing Geun Se to escape from the basement. Geun-Se wanted justice, so he went to the kitchen, grabbed a knife, and walked out to the party with a smile on his face. Spotting Jessica (Ki-Jung), Geun-Se walked out into the crowd and stabbed Jessica.

The intent behind his actions is solely based on the fight from the other night that killed his wife, so Geun-Se targeted everyone involved. The son of the rich fainted and the party turned chaotic. In order to save his family, Mr. Kim had to come forward and killed Geun-Se and blew his cover. Geun-Se yelled out, “Chung-sook!” She stepped out to save her family. Mr. Kim rushed to Ki-Jung who had been stabbed. Ki-Taek saw the rich people scatter and fleeing the scene while his family was still in danger; he saw that his son was dead, his daughter was bleeding out, and his wife was fighting off the killer. Mr. Park ordered Ki-Taek to get the car to take Da-Song to the hospital, leaving Mr. Kim to make a difficult choice.

The last twenty minutes of the film are critical. Once the man from the basement was stopped, Mr. Kim saw the ceo get his car keys from under Geun Se’s body while making the same face about his smell, this triggered Mr. Kim into stabbing the ceo. He saw it as a sign the rich were looking down on him. Ki-Taek also fled from the home, only he ended up not actually hiding too far, but instead took over as the man in the basement and stayed there to hide out from the police. The viewer is led to believe that the movie ends with Kevin waking up in the hospital, smiling to be alive. Only to see him go to trial with his mother for charges on trespassing, foul play, forgery,  self-defense, and getting probation. The mother and son then visited their daughter’s memorial.   They carried on with their lives being tailed by detectives in search of Mr. Kim.

Picture of Ki-Taek inside the Park family home
Parasite (기생충) Korean – Movie

After things calmed, the son was drawn back to the house. He would travel to the mountains and from there he noticed the lights were on in the house. The son uncovered a letter his father wrote to him through morse code. Ki-Taek revealed that he locked himself up in the bunker in the basement which was the perfect place to hide because not many know about the secret bunker. Since a crime took place, the home was not easy to sell. Ki-Taek now lived in the bunker while a new family lived upstairs. He purposefully wrote his letter with the intention his son would one day see it and translate the message and find him and release him from the bunker.

Picture of Ki-Woo and Chung-sook Kim restarting their lives after their trial.
Parasite (기생충) Korean – Movie

The viewer is led to believe the son’s plan to earn a lot of money and buy the house is achieved by the transitions in time. As the son is describing his plan, the audience are taken to a scene where the mother, son, and a realtor are going to view the house while his mother and him are dressed up in a professional and cleaned up attire leading us to the yard scene where the basement door would be left open and the father would walk out in the yard to reunite with his family. This scene was so touching when they hugged that I was shocked by the realization that this was only a fantasy in Ki-Woo’s head as he’s left sitting in a dark basement room with tear filled eyes.                                                        

Psychology of the film

There seems to be something interesting about the dynamic of the rich family, the daughter is seemingly normal. The son is quiet and drew pictures while his mother claims that he has issues. The father takes care of the family but his actions are all based on his image. His wife was a pawn in this aspect. She was in charge of hiring all the housing staff and other things such as tutors. If a problem arised, the wife’s errors would make her husband look bad, which is why numerous times during the film she asked the new staff not to mention anything to her husband. This dynamic killed the love between the couple and makes it seem like it’s a contractual arrangement between the married couple. This was further examined when Mr. Park is in the car and the driver asked him, ” you still love her”, talking to the businessmen about still loving his wife in the event something happened to which he responded, “We will call it love.” The words of the husband were not endearing nor loving toward his wife but are cold and aloof. When Mr. Kim brought up this sentence at the party, “Well, you love her, after all” Mr. Park’s reaction was telling Ki-Taek that he was getting paid extra for being there so think of it as part of his work. Mr. Park seemed uncomfortable in general with the concept of love.

The idea of a secret bunker in the basement was an interesting addition. Before watching this film, my manager said to keep in mind bunkers that were used during World War II to protect people from bombs, which also changed my view on the film before watching. As I was watching the film, in my head I thought it that seemed like a typical school drama waiting to see a war break out or something traumatic to happen. Instead, there was a criminal con going on between a poor family and the rich. The rich had their own secrets with a bunker in their basement that was like a dungeon for the maid’s husband. The maid ended up being the one to show the Kim family the bunker and how to access it, this was foreshadowing the ending.

  The son of the rich had suffered trauma from seeing Geun Se sneak out of the basement at some point during the night as the son was sneaking cake from the kitchen which was adjacent to the basement. The mother played it off as a ghost. The family traveled for the son’s birthday due to the trauma he previously suffered, and the poor family took over as if the place was their own, unknowing that the family was coming home early due to the weather. This made a lot of events take place in a small time window.

The man in the bunker actually seemed to be smarter than he looked. He is able to use morse code to try to communicate with the ceo, attempting to make contact daily.  The family is oblivious to the flickering auto lights when no one is moving which is proof there was someone in the house, but they brushed it off as a faulty sensor. Unfortunately, the rich son Da-Song knew morse code from being a scout and was able to transcribe the message from the man in the bunker. The goal of the bunker man was to continue living in the basement bunker. When Mr. Kim aka (the poor father) overheard the rich parents talking about his smell while being trapped hiding under the coffee table, he started to see what the rich really thought of him. Regardless of his hard work, the rich would always think less of him. The ceo compared the smell to people who took the subway which hinted that the special smell was reserved only to poor people who took the subway since wealthy people like Mr. Park have drivers.       

          

“If you make a plan, life never works out that way. With no plan, nothing can go wrong. And if something spins out of control, it doesn’t matter. Whether you kill someone or betray your country. None of it f——matters.”              

Ki-Taek talking to his son after the flood.