Parasite, the Palme d’Or 2019
When I first heard the name “Parasite” coming up in the list of popular movies of this year, my subconscious interpretation of the name was literal and the images that conjured up in my mind were gruesome at the very least. But then the film was mentioned alongside many critically acclaimed movies this year, along the likes of A Marriage Story, Once upon a time in Hollywood and it was then that it caught my interest. A quick google search showed me that this flick had claimed the Palme d’Or at Cannes and then I had to see it.
The movie opens up in a tiny, poor Korean household, where a brother and sister in their late teens are running about with their phones in their hands, searching for open wifi sources and lamenting the fact that the open Wifi they had been using until then was now password protected. The scene points out the existence of a 21st century poor family of four living in abysmal conditions in a house that could barely qualify as habitable. None of the Kim family members is employed and they seem to be just getting by doing any freelancing work that any member could lay their hands on. The psyche of each member is surprisingly in tune and there is no internal conflict in the mentality of any two members. Even though their state is pathetic, there is a spark in everyone’s eyes that points out to the fact that they have not given up on life and are ready to grab an opportunity if they smell one.
A little light seems to come into the life of the family when the son Ki-Woo’s friend Min, comes to them bearing a gift from his grandfather and a lucrative job opportunity for Ki Woo of tutoring the daughter of the rich Park family in English. The gift is an exotic scholar’s rock which as Min says brings wealth to the household. Though it seems like an ordinary gift, it somewhat symbolizes the family’s turns of luck throughout the movie. Ki-Woo establishes his credibility as a very learned teacher in the eyes of the gullible and very simple Park Yeon-Gyo, mother of his pupil Da-Hye.
After that, using their wit and simple knowledge gained through efficient use of the internet, the Kim family help the next family member to gain employment in the park household, with Ki-Woo’s sister, Ki-Jeong posing as an art therapist to tend to the Parks’ young son, Da-song. Ki-taek, the father replaces the family driver with the aid of Ki-Jeong’s schemes and Chung-sook, the mother replaces the very trusted housekeeper Moon-gwang, owing to the combined connivance of the Kim family. As Ki-taek points out, they thus established a mechanism that filters the Parks’ money into their family.
This marks the pinnacle of the Kim family’s fortunes after which one tragic event after other happens. On the one hand, they have to keep up the pretense that they are unrelated and on the other hand they have to prevent Moon-gwang, the fired housekeeper, who comes to know the truth about the family from revealing it to the unsuspecting Park family. The series of tragic events climaxes on the day of Da-song’s birthday, the celebration of which turns into a bloodbath. The intensity of the sequence will not let you blink throughout its execution. Too many Whys and Hows were left unanswered as indelible impacts were left on both the Park and the Kim families.
Overall, the name parasite is justified as the title as it shows a family sucking on the wealth and life of a more affluent, seemingly unperturbed family. Though it was not as criminal or unjustified as robbery or steeling, you can feel yourself cringing and marveling at the same time at the ease with which the Kim family placed themselves as genuine and unrelated workers, just working for a living in the Park household with no ulterior motives. What follows is just luck or karma, you could say, which can never be justified or made sense of. The movie concludes where it started, in the same tiny household of the Kim family, pointing out the circle of life and the inevitability of certain truths of life.