Parasite presents a recurrent dichotomy, to all territories, to all eras: that between the poor and the rich. Here is a detailed analysis of the background and form of the feature film. It should have been seen before reading this article, otherwise we will scream spoiler, and then it is better to understand.
Rich family of Seoul, the Park have a staff: a driver and a housekeeper. Their daughter takes English lessons but her teacher goes on a study trip. He entrusts his position to his friend Ki-woo Kim. The latter comes from a poor family, who will work out strategies to get hired by the Park family. While hiding their family ties, the Kim's will fire the Park driver and the housekeeper Moon-gwang for nothing. However, she will reappear in the house of her former employers, in order to bring food to her husband, Geun-sae, who lives in a hidden bunker of which only the couple knows the existence. This duo will disrupt the course of things…
Through these families antonyms by their standard of living, twins in their composition (two parents, a sister and a brother), Bong Joon-ho questions the status of the family at the contemporary time, whereas in Korea, today still today, intra-family ties are ritualized and sacred.
Family solidarity allows the Kim family to survive and (try) to extricate themselves from their condition. His family conscience prevails over the class conscience: its members do not explicitly designate themselves as poor. The Park, for their part, have more cautious ties. They wish to give an idealized representation: a photographic portrait of their family, united and model, is exposed in his living room, surrounded by articles on the success of the father and drawings of the son.
The epilogue to history shows that, despite the darkest events, the family remains the landmark.
Spectators will not learn what is happening to the Park family, this lack is lacking. It could have been very interesting: the mother did not work and lived on the hook of her husband, killed, and benefited from domestic staff. What has become of her? Conversely, survivors of the Kim family will not blame each other, despite the failure of their scam. They stay together, and the son will do everything to save his father, a prisoner of his own jail under the ex-Park home.
Bong Joon-ho gives poverty 4 faces. The presentations take place in the three-room apartment of the Kim family, where light enters through a window located between the ceiling and street level, where urinates drunk and dogs urinate.
In a vertical tracking shot, from top to bottom, the filmmaker brings the gaze from this window to a key figure: Ki-woo. He follows him on camera with his fist to present the family: in his footsteps his sister Chung-soo follows; in another room is sitting on the floor Chung-Soo, the mother, who we can guess through rare photographs that she was champion of shot put. She "proved" something sporting rather than economic, it doesn’t feed, but at least she’s achieved a feat.
Beside her is installed Ki-Taek, the father, the guardian figure of the family. Without having a job, the latter redoubles his audacity. He will encourage his son to lie in order to get a job as an English teacher at the Park, very proud of the false diploma that his daughter made in less than ten minutes on desktop publishing software. It therefore has some graphic skills. Ki-woo knows enough to speak English to get the job. His lack of a real diploma has nothing to do with any disability.
Poor, certainly … but not ignorant!
The director implies that they are very similar to the rich. They are competent, connected, dressed in the latest fashion, as evidenced by a close-up targeting Ki-woo's trendy sneakers. In contemporary ultra-modernized Korea, poverty no longer looks like it used to; she is even faceless. It exists only by the difference in purchasing power and income between the supposed poor and the supposed rich. If there are rich people, it is because there are poor people, and vice versa.
The Kim quartet survives by folding cardboard boxes, as a meager alternative to unemployment. Wanting to increase productivity (the poor too are interested in the idea of earning as much money as possible in the shortest amount of time), they look on YouTube for tips on how to fold them faster. If people are making videos on the subject, it’s because they have an audience and many people are in the Kim’s situation. Only, their boss is not satisfied with their new method and decides to pay them less. They flatly refuse and try to convince her, she will be the first target of family determination.
If Ki-taek encourages his son to lie, he will apply the paternal advice for him, as for his sister; to whom he invented a career as an art therapist. She then imagined a career as a driver for her father, who found a team member to hire his wife as housekeeper and cook. All of them stick together in deception and their complementary actions allow them to each get a job. There is not one to catch up with the other. And the patriarch is the one who has the least moral; which will be confirmed later when Geun-sae (the former governess’s husband) reports being ripped off by him.
The Park family is wealthy and has no problem with money, of course. Built by an architect, their home is large, clean, cold. Yeon-gyo, the mother is bored, when she is not shopping, falling asleep on a garden table or taking care – probably too much – of her children. Her son Da-song is an artist, she is convinced. In her abstract drawings, she guesses the talent of Francis Bacon. The artistic reference testifies to its culture; she goes to art museums.
However, there is a great deal of loneliness in her: when she receives Ki-woo for an interview, she confides to this stranger the difficulties she encounters with her son. It is by associating his psychological instability with his paintings that Ki-Woo will have the idea of telling that he knows a famous art therapist. Ms. Park is delighted with the recommendation. She hired Ki-woo because he was sent by her daughter's previous English teacher, she will hire Ki-jung on his proposal, when she does not know him. His naivety reads here. She follows each other's "recommendations", provided she feels that the people who are advised to her are from her social circle. Which is just an illusion.
Her daughter Da-hye falls in love with Ki-woo as she falls in love with her previous teacher. Behind her reserved and wise appearance, and despite her youth, she is somewhat seductive.
Father Dong-ik, a businessman, works long hours and makes little profit from his children. He maintains close but normalized relationships with his wife. Both express little of their emotions. His company is also called "Another Brick". Subtly resonates " Another Brick in the Wall ", Pink Floyd's flagship song in which an imaginary character questions the heritage, spiritual rather than material, left by his father: "Finally that a brick in the wall".
Another fact: the Park are never simultaneously together, or very rarely.
In one scene, Yeon-gyo absolutely wants to eat noodles in black soy sauce, a typical dish of the poor. She enriches it with a few pieces of meat, and makes one bite. Bong Joon-ho repeats: the rich are poor like any other. Here, he humanizes them, he makes them victims. The feature film is not miserable: it gives no reason or wrong to the poor or the rich. The point of view is to be emphasized in a South Korean context where for several years many television productions have demonized wealthy families, who made their fortune thanks to the development of chaebols (associations of industrial and financial companies) in the 1990s.
However, the Parks do not have much regard for their staff. They follow and stick to a system of conventions and standards. When something escapes it, they do not try to understand the why of the how.
So, when Ki-jung leaves his pants in the car of Mr. Park's driver, he does not at all consider the good and loyal service of his employee. He imagines, as Kin-jung had hoped, that he uses his car to welcome his wife or mistresses. His hygienic and prudish spirit was shocked, the irrational prevailed over any concern for understanding: he dismissed his driver. As for the historic mistress of the house of their villa, sold with it since it was already in the service of the previous and first owner, they do not make much of it when she sneezes in contact with peaches discreetly hidden in the house by the Kim. While she is simply allergic to the fruit, Dong-ik and Yeon-gyo fear that she has tuberculosis, a suggested idea, let's give it in millet, by the new driver of the family who is none other than Ki-Taek Kim. Proof of this is that their apartment is spotless and without a speck of dust, the Park people are frightened of dirt and disease.
If the Park couple are scared of grime, Parasite traces the rise from dirty to clean, from the Kim family to the Park family. But the dirty already exists in their villa. Their former employee, Moon-gwang, who knows the home by heart for being in the service of its designer, locked up her husband in a basement bunker, unknown to the current owners. Below them (remember the below) therefore lives a poor and dubious person, who has lost his mind because of his confinement. When it springs from the bowels of the house, it will bring an irreversible dramatic turn to history. Even without knowing it, the rich are geographically very close to the poor. This supports the point that today's poor and wealthy are alike.
Dong-ik Park notices the odor of his driver, who is unpleasant to him. The allusion refers to the South Korean context: the smell is associated with metro users that the wealthy hardly ever use. His way of taking offense at this smell will cost him his life. While in a murderous scene, he seeks to escape by car, he lifts Geun-sae's body in order to recover the keys to his vehicle, while covering his nose. This gesture, which could have been harmless, is too much for Ki-Taek, who murdered him.
In this same episode, which begins as a birthday party for Da-Song, the poor and the wealthy come together. The entire Kim family is present for the celebration. If Chung-sook and Ki-Taek are at work, Ki-woo and Ki-sung have been invited. But as if this poor / rich reunion was impossible, the arrival of Geun-sae leads to the dislocation of the (social) body at the same rate as the (human) bodies. The masks of farce fall when faced with the murder of his daughter Ki-Taek can no longer contain his father's emotion, thus revealing their kinship. Between leaks or murders, the bodies become as many refugia to save or puppets falling loose.
One of the first scenes in the film shows Ki-Taek sweeping a cockroach out of the back. The Kim, accustomed to inhaling the smell of urine and anti-cockroach powder, finally breathe in the vast and airy mansion of the Park, whose garden, immersed in nature, impresses Ki-woo when he discovers it for the first time times, while his apartment is surrounded by the urban.
The organic, the biological takes its place in the film. In this sense, the title speaks volumes: Parasite. The term refers to "a person who lives in idleness, at the expense of a community or another person. The Kim family here does not live in idleness so much, but actually lives on the Park hooks. If one cannot doubt the efficiency of the parents who carry out – de facto – their job as mistress of the house and driver, one can doubt the real usefulness of the English lessons, Ki-woo spending part of the time to discuss with his pupil and to kiss him, and art therapy, nothing proving that Da-song has real psychological concerns.
The whole story is made possible by a friend of Ki-woo. At the very beginning of the film, he suggested that he resume his teaching job … during a trip abroad. Nothing will say, moreover, what has become of it. He was also enamored with Da-hye Park that he intended to propose in marriage, he probably thought to resume his job when he returned … Did he try to contact the Park or Ki-woo?
By offering the job to Ki-woo, he offers him a folded rock. This stone is a real token of friendship: it belonged to his grandfather who collected mineralogical pieces. Having a base, as if it were an exhibit, which attests to its interest or value, it introduces a metaphysical dimension to the story. Synonymous with luck, it is welcome for a family that has failed in every way. It is this same friend who will advise the fabrication of a false diploma.
Ki-woo constantly looks at the rock, repeating "it's so metaphorical! But the streak of the latter seems to evoke the rhythm in full and hollow of the farce being played. She was almost fatal to her new owner because Geun-sae, the former governor's husband, knocks her out with it. At the end, he will put it back in a river, back to sovereign nature.
Metaphysics also appears in the apocalyptic storm which is triggered when the family brazenly take possession, for an evening, of the villa of their bosses who have gone camping. These returning prematurely, the Kim are forced to flee and return home, on foot, in a torrential rain that freezes them to the blood. Their penate is flooded, drowned under water. They will be welcomed, among other unlucky regulars in a gymnasium, and will be forced to draw their clothes from second-hand clothes offered to the refugee. From poor people, they become more than poor. The Earth and the Sky returned the parasites to their depths. As Ki-jung lights a cigarette in the bathroom, the toilet flushes out their sewage. This shows a certain inevitability: it is impossible to win your classes so easily. A higher will presides over the destiny of the poor as well as the rich. Those who dare to cheat will be put back in their place.
At the start of the film, Ki-woo searches for wifi, and his father suggests that he raise his arm, the first expression of a recurring idea in the film: for the poor, access to the world is at the top. And it is indeed in the highest perched places that they will find it: on an elevation of their apartment where the toilets are nestled, on which it is impossible to stand with your back straight, as if even in their primary needs, the poor were determined to bow down.
The plan where Ki-woo and his sister find the wifi is filmed in vertical upward tracking shot (from bottom to top), the Internet found propels them on summits, where the world is. The two huddle together, cramped in the heights, as if there was no room for them. The toilets, to their left, threatens to discharge their sewage. In one scene the metaphor is exposed: if for a moment, the moments of grace are present (the wifi found), the balance is subjected at all times to external, uncontrollable forces. Moreover, as previously mentioned, the water from the sewers will rise to the surface to spread in the bathroom.