After watching the movie, do you have more questions than answers? Let me help you find the hidden meaning of the movie “Parasite” and also explain what the movie’s ending means.
Parasite is a South Korean film that won an Oscar not only for Best Foreign Film but also for Best US Film. The film parasites caused a real resonance around the world, but the main thing is not only the plot, but also the topics that are covered in this series. First of all, this is the inequality between the rich and the poor, as well as a lot of symbols, photographic elements. There are many nuances that show us the main meaning of the film.
What is the movie “Parasite” about?
Many believe that the meaning of the film “Parasite” is in its social orientation. But he doesn’t end there. In the center of the plot are two families: poor Kims and rich Packs. First, we get to know the Kims huddled in the basement. Near which local drunkards often recover. It is hard to believe that someone would live in this “underground”. But it has to!
A poor, but friendly and loving family gets out as best it can. Stealing free wifi, looking for odd jobs, vaguely hoping for the future. It does not have any plans for the future. They do not even think about how to get cockroaches out of their own rooms. A powerful pillar of disinfectant smoke will burst into their window at lunch, and completely free. At this moment we will for the first time remember the name “Parasite”, but the metaphor will not be humiliating, but comical.
The father of the family has long lost hope for a permanent income, the mother only recalls past achievements in throwing the shot – the medal hangs on the wall in an honorary frame. The brother and sister are talented and enterprising, but they cannot save money for their studies. But now fate is knocking on the door with a stone in his bosom. The comrade of the eldest son brings a “stone of wealth” as a gift (grandfather’s inheritance to throw away) and at the same time makes a brilliant offer to his friend – to replace him for a while in a rich family, to work as a tutor.
The guy forges documents with the help of an artistically gifted sister and rubs himself into the confidence of wealthy spouses – he teaches their daughter English. Then he pulls up his sister – to teach the youngest son of the rich to draw. And then a couple of young tutors arrange such an intrigue to drag the whole family into a luxurious house, which is just amazing.
The first part of the film unfolds like a tragicomedy or sitcom, but in the second part there is a sharp turn and we have a cruel movie in front of us – a real thriller, the victims of which are all participants without exception.
Some will be surprised by Bong Joon Ho’s directorial look at a poor family – roguish, but charming. We always feel that the camera is on their side, not on the side of the rich, respectable and clean Pucks. By the way, it was no coincidence that we started talking about cleanliness – Kima’s scammers were able to disguise everything except the smell of poverty, the ineradicable smell of the basement in which they live. He will become the dramatic spring of the film.
“Parasite” plot explained
At first glance, the title of the film conveys its meaning both literally and figuratively: there are parasitic people. However, we know that parasites are part of the system, but if the stars are lit, then someone needs it.
In the film, a parallel with cockroaches is not once drawn: Kim Ki-taek’s family lives in the basement, no one is concerned about their existence, they are not even visible. Remember, at the beginning of the movie, a drunk passerby tries to urinate next to their window, not even realizing that he is doing it in front of a lot of other people. Another notable scene is the scene where the head of the family orders not to close the window when the pest control is working on the street: “let them treat us for free.” Moreover, the metaphor of their existence is literally voiced: “you enter the room, turn on the light and all the cockroaches scatter.” And so they constantly look out from under something. Then their house is literally flooded with sewage: in the words of the son, “how metaphorical it all is.”
The scene with catching free Wi-Fi brings us to the essence of the existence of a parasite: getting a good thing at someone else’s expense. However, I repeat, everything is not so simple. They cannot be called lazy, freeloaders or freeloaders. They want to work. They are happy with any work, and, it should be noted, they do an excellent job with it.
From princes to filth.
However, in the described world, the good is found and easily lost, and if you lose your job, then immediately your existence turns into the existence of a cockroach. The former housekeeper instantly flies to the very bottom, literally in a few days turning from a well-groomed madam with a name in the American style into a dirty tramp with a black eye: “Are you the new housekeeper instead of me?” Yes, it’s very easy to get lost here. When I watched this movie, I remembered a children’s game with high chairs, where you have to have time to take a seat, but there are not enough seats for everyone. So it is here: in time – the place is yours, but there is someone who can knock you back to the “lower world”.
Lower and upper worlds.
So, two worlds: the world of blessings, like a picture from Pinterest, and the basement, hidden world. In the upper world, everyone bears American names and preaches new values. But they also have a trash can and a sewer. And that’s where we’ll stop.
Dirty other people’s underpants.
The scene where the boy sleeps in a tent in the yard, Kim’s family is under the table (hiding like cockroaches), and Park and his wife and he are lying on the couch in silk pajamas is one of the most funny and amazing. This is the scene where the Park family’s cockroaches came out while Kim and his family were hiding under the table. Remember, Park asks his wife to put on those cheap dirty underpants, and the wife asks him to give him drugs. Representatives of the upper world are actually very passionate about the dirt of the “lower” world (although in fact their own), remember at least with what interest and excitement they looked at and discussed these cowards: not only did Pak bring them home (and did not disdain) , so his wife puts on gloves and takes tweezers to see them. It does not matter at all that there is a bag, gloves and tweezers, it is important that these cowards overexcited the inhabitants of the upper world.
Where is the line? Difference.
It would seem that Kim’s family got their way and crawled out of the basement. But in the film there is a certain feature that sets the true difference between the inhabitants of the two worlds, and this is … smell.
It is interesting that it is the child, Pak Da-song, the negligent boy, about whom his mother complains that he is not of this world, is the only one who sees the deep essence of what is happening and who is the first to catch this difference: he tells his parents that the driver and the housekeeper smell the same, both the English teacher and his art teacher smell the same.
At the end of the film, after Kim kills Pak, we are told “the police cannot establish a motive for the murder.” However, this is the difference here. It, the difference, revealing itself too clearly, makes Kim kill Mr. Pak – when he plugs his nose. Kim really has nothing against Pak.
And in my opinion, he does not kill Pak, he kills the difference. Everyone can stink.
Which of the families are real parasites
The film deliberately does not answer this question. The director’s position is that the entire modern society is built on the principle of parasitism. The rich delegate “manual” work to the poor. A rich housewife does not even know how to load dishes into the dishwasher – she hires servants for this.
The theme of social inequality and the gap between the rich and the poor became the main one for Bong Joon Ho. He began work on the film back in 2013, but in 2019 the theme of universal parasitism has become even more pronounced.
In his interviews, Bong Joon Ho says that the main emotional task of the film is the feeling of fear: he wanted the viewer to be afraid of the scale and inevitability of social stratification after the film. If we continue to live as we live now, and our children live by our rules, we are doomed to eternal imprisonment in the trap of parasitism, dishonesty, selfishness and infantilism.
While watching, it is impossible to understand which side the director is on: does he sympathize with the poor, does he try to put them in the best light? Does he play on sentimental pity for the Kim family? Does he show the rich Pak as cleaner (literally and figuratively) and nicer people? Does he sympathize with the impressionable rich mother, who sincerely worries about the psyche of her son, who is so easily deceived?
By the second half of the film, bodily associations with parasitic insects are clearly traced. The poor crawl, run on all fours, hide in dark places. When the living room lights are turned on, Kim freezes on the floor like a cockroach that is afraid of a slipper. And the intimate scene with the rich is similar to the copulation of insects.
Poverty and wealth. Symbolism
If you watch the film carefully, you will see how almost every detail of “Parasite” symbolizes the difference between the rich and the poor. Paki and Kim are mirror images of each other, only the mirror is crooked.
The rich Pack family lives on a hill in a huge futuristic house. Poor Kims are at the bottom of the city, in the basement of a high-rise building.
There are a lot of stairs in the film: in the Pak’s house they go up, at the Kim’s – down. Even in the city you have to go down the stairs to the Kims’ house. It is a metaphor for a “hierarchical ladder” or social “food chain” where the poor are inevitably vulnerable and the rich reign supreme at the top of the world.
The usual heavy rain becomes a disaster for the Kims – their apartment is flooded to the middle. And on Pakov’s lawn, the lawn only grows greener.
The director says that the motto “you must try, then everything will work out” is often a false promise. Social status and unemployment are stronger than ordinary people.
The episode at the beginning of the film is symbolic – the Kims abandon the idea of fighting cockroaches and leave this problem to chance. And it works: a disinfection car drives along their street, which disinfects their basement through open windows.
The complete absence of a plan of action, lowered hands, total poverty and a special ineradicable unpleasant smell – this is what fills the image of the Kims. The quality that helped them achieve success for a short time is cunning.
At the same time, the Kims are talented. The son teaches English very well, and the daughter draws beautifully and copes with the extraordinary son of Pakov. The mother immediately masters the intricacies of housekeeping in the new house, and the father professionally masters the management of the new car. Their poverty is a fateful external condition that gives them no choice but to become criminals.
Bong Joon Ho inserts the line in the film: “500 people with higher education apply for every vacancy of a security guard.” The director heard this statistics about South Korea somewhere on the news, and he was so impressed that he appeared in the film. This is a really big problem for Koreans: fierce competition puts a lot of psychological pressure on them.
If you’re wondering if the rich in South Korea are really so paranoid that they’re building bunkers in case of a nuclear war, yes, indeed. Does it make sense? We do not know. But Bong Joon Ho says this is a real Korean practice, albeit among the richest people. Personally, he does not have a bunker in his house.
A notable symbol in the film is the “wealth stone”. The younger Kim receives it as a gift from a successful friend who gives him a “ticket” to the Pack family.
A friend used to be a tutor for the Packs, but is now leaving to study and recommends Kim to take his place. From this moment, that is, in fact, from the moment the stone was received, changes begin. Through deceit and fake documents, he goes to work for them, and then drags the whole family.
It seems to many Russian-speaking viewers that this stone contains some deeper meaning that we do not understand. No, everything is transparent here, and director Bong Joon Ho himself confirms this. “Why stone?” “Because as a child I somehow loved stones.”
This is a notch from which you can count the beginning of the drama. By the end of the film, we see that the stone turns out to be a “fake”, a false hope for happiness: instead of the promised wealth, it brought only trouble and death.
From the beginning of the film until the decisive moment, the viewer is haunted by a special smell emanating from the Kim family, and it is very important.
The Packs do not know that all their servants are members of the same family, but it is their common unpleasant smell that makes them suspicious. It is the smell of cheap washing powder, basement, sweat, dirt, old clothes.
The rich Paki cannot stand this smell and involuntarily pinch their nose. This gesture becomes the main symbol of social stratification, it is also the reason for the bloody action at the end of the film. The Kims, poor and morbidly proud, are offended by this treatment of themselves. Moreover, they understand that the smell is really disgusting. This offends them even more.
At the same time, personal boundaries become an important detail. Mr. Park, the head of the family, often mentions the need to respect personal boundaries – this is his strict rule of life. But at the moment when he smells that very smell of poverty from the driver, the personal boundaries between the two families are destroyed. Returning home, he discusses this smell with his wife, and she confesses that she understands what he means.
Body odor is one of the most intimate parts of the human image, because you can’t smell it until you get too close to the person. This is an interesting subtle moment, hinting at the coming disaster: “something is already wrong with these families.”
“Parasite” ending explained
The bunker in which the husband of the former housekeeper has been living for four years is the very bottom of the hierarchical ladder. Below is no longer possible. In part, it dictates the terrible bloody ending of the film. Kim Jr. armed himself with a “wealth stone” and descended into the bunker to kill the housekeeper’s husband, but the husband himself attacked him. It is thanks to Kim Jr. that the husband breaks out of the bunker and goes to kill.
At this time, in the background, the daughter of Pakov rescues Kim Jr.: they are touchingly in love with each other. This is a strong moment that is hard to read amidst the massacre: love lives in the hearts of the guys.
Mr. Pak, being next to the madman, pinches his nose – he smells the same smell. Kim’s father sees this, goes mad with pent-up rage, and kills Pak.
So the image of the crazy husband from the bunker loops with the image of the older Kim: Kim hides in the bunker and begins to live there. Pak’s wife moves out of this cursed place, new tenants move into the house, at night Kim steals food from their refrigerator.
The residents think that one light bulb in the hallway is not working, but it is not: it is Kim sending a message to her son in Morse code, not knowing if he will ever see him. In the end, the son comes to this house and deciphers the letter.
Kim Sr. remains imprisoned at the bottom of the hierarchy, and the mother and son end up in the same place where they were at the beginning. Mrs. Park finds herself without a husband and disappears from view. And only the vague dream of the Kims became more clear: the son is going to learn, get rich and buy this house, reunited in it with his father. Is it feasible? The viewer decides for himself.
The director openly says in his interviews that he does not want to help his viewers with understanding the ending, does not want to give clues. He tells a story: the poor tried to trick their way out of the bottom to the top of the hierarchy, they didn’t succeed.
On the one hand, the open ending gives hope that Kim Jr. will succeed, he will learn, buy a house and save his father – he is really talented and smart. But, on the other hand, how many years will it take? And will they be able to be happy after the carnage they staged? We think not. Korean unemployment and the family’s bloody history almost robs them of any chance of happiness. And this terrible, frightening idea of hopelessness, in fact, Pong Joon Ho wants to convey to us.