I’m not a movie guy, and I’ve only ever watched one Korean movie before, but on the recommendation of one of my students, I watched the newly released Korean movie, Parasite, or 기생충 as its Korean name is.
The movie has won many awards, rightfully so. It explores the differences between the life of the Korean upper class and the under-privileged, a topic that is on many Koreans’ minds these days.
The family we follow manages to “infiltrate” a rich family’s life by getting their various servants fired and them taking over their job. The rich family has no idea their maid, driver, and two tutors for their children are all in the same family, but instead believe they all share a professional relationship and just happen to know each other.
spoilers: When the rich family goes away for a camping trip, the poor family is tasked with taking care of the house. While they’re away, the previous maid returns and we find out that she’s been hiding her husband in a secret basement in the house.
When the poor family discovers this, they pressure the old maid by threatening to expose her. That is until the old maid finds out that the poor family managed to get her fired and manipulated the rich family to hire them all, now she threatens to expose them. Suddenly, the rich family decides to come back early as the campsite got flooded. After this, chaos ensues as they fight to keep their secret.
It ends in a bloody battle and several deaths, it is well worth the watch and my description will never do it justice.
My take aways
The movie was gripping, exciting, and intriguing the entire watch. Starting out you think you understand the premise of the movie, thinking it might be a sort of comedy. All that takes a huge turn after the old maid’s husband is found in the basement. Fairly quickly, the premise and mood of the movie turns much darker and bloodier.
As the poor family works for the rich family, their resentment builds up over time, culminating with the dad who works as a driver, stabbing the man of the rich family. The rich family goes about their life throughout the movie, completely unaware that they are acting privileged and are belittling the family who works for them. For me this was very effective in conveying some of how the very underprivileged must feel among the very over-privileged. Most of us is somewhere in between and rarely get to see this contrast, the same goes for Koreans, but putting the two extremes together was very effective for conveying the feelings felt on the underprivileged side.
It was just as interesting seeing a poor family portrayed as it was to see a rich family portrayed in Korea. Both were intriguing for different reasons. The rich are similar to many other nation’s rich upper class, perhaps with the difference being the intense focus from the parents on the education of their kids. The poor family too lived like in many other countries, but clearly prioritized having access to things like internet and Kakaotalk as an all important connection to the outside world. Perhaps this is now the same in most countries.
Having watched this movie, I definitely have a thirst for watching more Korean movies. Although this is the only one I’ve watched in recent times, you can tell that the Koreans have skills and experience in creating captivating movie experiences.