Have you heard of the saying “rags to riches”? This was not merely a saying, but an encouraging message of dreams and hopes for many people who wanted to overcome difficult circumstances to stand up and succeed. However, in today's society, this belief is gradually dying down. In other words, it is getting difficult to move up from lower class to upper one. In addition, social inequality is emerging as a serious problem as the gap between the rich and the poor is increasing. In fact, less than three out of ten respondents said that there will an increase in social mobility in their children’s generation, according to the NSO's social survey. A realistic portrayal of the latest society, <Parasite> was released in May, surpassing 9.39 million viewers in just a month. In addition, it won the most honorable award Palme d'Or at the 72nd Cannes International Film Festival, being recognized worldwide for its cinematic quality. Thus, let us find out what factors in <Parasite> have attracted so many viewers and captivated the public.
The main characters of the movie are divided into upper and lower social classes from the beginning to the end. The relations between the two families begin when Ki-Woo, the eldest son of a family who lives in a small, poor semi-basement house, was introduced to Park’s family who is the CEO of a global IT company as a tutor for his daughter. At the beginning of the film, Ki-Taek acts as a chauffeur for Park, his wife Chung-Sook as a housekeeper for Park's mansion, and Ki-woo and Ki-Jeong, the children of Ki-Taek as a private tutor teacher for Park’s two children. The two families seem like they are well settled and live a stable life, but as the movie progresses, we find out several symbolic meanings that represent the differences between the two families.
One of them is "line", which Park has mentioned several times in the film. He dislikes crossing the line, and he is a man who likes people who work hard at their duties without crossing the line. Given that Park dislikes people from lower social status crossing the line and thinks he cannot have a close relationship with people from different classes, Park's emphasis on the “line” can be considered the line and division between classes. The meaning of this line can be found in many scenes as well as in the dialogues. Park's mansion is filmed from high altitude whereas Ki-Taek’s house is always filmed from low altitude in semi-basement. When heavy rain falls in the middle of the movie, Park's family is safe in a waterproof tent, but Ki-Taek’s family has to escape from their semi-basement which is flooded by the water. This is also the difference between the two classes, the line between them.
The movie is heading toward the climax with the appearance of Moon-Kwang couple living in the basement of Park's residence. On a rainy day when Park’s family is away for travel, Moon-Kwang comes to Park’s house with her husband and asks for help from Ki-Taek’s family, but the family refuses and tries to kick them out. The image of these two families who cannot coexist despite being in the same parasite situation symbolizes Korean competitive society. In the second half of the film, Ki-Taek accidentally kills Park at a party and ends up hiding in the basement of Park's residence, in the same position that Moon-Kwang’s husband he ignored. They are like parasites that keep themselves locked in the basement and secretly go upstairs and steal food. His son Ki-Woo vows to save his father by buying the house one day, leaving a famous line: "Father, you just have to come up the stairs." Climbing these stairs means the rise of the family’s social status. It is in this scene that many viewers realize once again that they always dream of being successful in their life, but in reality, it is very hard for them to move up the social ladder.
In addition, there are scenes that depict the parasitic life of Ki-Taek’s family, such as using other people’s Wi-Fi. As such, the movie <Parasite> uses various effects such as contrast and symbolism to convey the audience a message about the true aspects of Korean society. I hope you will have a chance to think about the reality of the current capitalist, class-based society through <Parasite>, which won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival and served as a springboard for the Korean film industry's leap forward.
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