Yes, the swans are returning to the canals of Venice, and the skies of Delhi are clearing up, but at the cost of whom? Because it is not the rich.

Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite was unarguably one of the best movies that were served to us last year. An excessively uncomfortable yet realistic movie about the class divide, it was practically on everybody’s tongue to discuss.

There were many gripping scenes in the movie, and it’s hard to pick a favourite, but the “car scene” was definitely one of the best. It describes a scene where Mr Kim is driving Mrs Park back home after a day of shopping for her son’s birthday impromptu that was to happen that evening.

The night before, a devastating downpour that flooded the entire city, forcing the poor out of their homes and destroying almost every belonging that they possessed. Mr Kim and his entire family had been displaced too, with their entire house wrecked and destroyed, but he had still been asked to come to work and look cheerful for the Parks, simply because he had been paid.

In the car, Mr Kim drives forlorn and dejected- the man had just lost his house and everything he had owned- while Mrs Park sits in the back-seat with her feet up, inviting a friend to the evening’s jamboree. She talks heartily in the back, complaining about the rain, and how they had to trade plans for her son’s birthday- from camping to a garden party. “But at least the sky cleared up,” she says, as Mr Kim, whose house the rain that had ‘at least cleared the sky’ had destroyed, drives on. To Mrs Park, a downpour that had destroyed hundreds of lives in the city was a mild inconvenience that had at least made the sky pretty.

That is exactly what we sound like when we applaud the swans of Venice coming back, or the pollution clearing up and the skies becoming pretty, or the Earth ‘reclaiming herself’. All these things are extremely important- and needful- and there is absolutely no contest to that. However, we are extremely fast to forget that this clearing up of these skies, and the ‘reclamation’ of nature, has come not at the expense of the rich, as it should have been, but instead at the expense of the poor.

As workers, a lot of us have the privilege of a work-from-home, something that the daily-wage labourer or the essential service worker cannot afford. To a lot of us, the sacrifice for the clearing up of skies is the mild inconvenience of having to stay at home working from our laptops yet earning the same or watching hours of Netflix to try to while away the time. But the sacrifice that the poor make isn’t simply an inconvenience- it is a matter of survival and uncertainty. It is a matter of anxiety about how to earn enough to buy basic groceries that were already hard to buy, to begin with. For them, this global crisis is more than just medical.

The swans should return to the canals of Venice, the waters of the beaches of Manila should be turquoise again, and the skies of Delhi should clear up. It is what we owe to nature, as is her right. But the least we can do is not romanticize a pandemic that is giving all this to us by standing on the backs of the poor.

Feature Image Credit: Parasite (2019)

Shreya Juyal
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Assuming you have already watched this Academy award-winning masterpiece, read further to unravel not-so-subtle imagery of class hierarchy in modern society.

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

It is not easy to describe or critique a movie like Parasite. It is a satirical, drama-thriller. Like its father, Bong Joon-ho, the movie is highly dynamic as it changes tones like a girl changes clothes (Hot N Cold reference). Bong creates a tapestry depicting class hierarchy via his craft of interweaving various subtle as well as not-so-subtle threads.

The movie opens with the Kim family son, Ki-woo, walking around their tiny house in search of Wi-Fi connection. The toilet happens to be the highest point in the house apparently giving him the connection to a network that probably isn’t password-protected, basically leeching off some neighbour. Evidently, the parasitical attributes of the family are established very early in the film. We also see how the family lives in a semi-basement. Semi-basement means that the house is also semi-over ground essentially giving the family a sense of hope as well.

A little further into the movie we see the Park family house located on some sort of a hilltop. Later we also learn how Moon-gwang and Geun-sae live in an even lower basement in the Park house. Bong uses this element of “upstairs and downstairs” to establish the positions of these families in the class hierarchies. The same concept is used in multiple ways further in the film.

Watching the movie, you realise that this isn’t just a fight between two families from different social backgrounds, but also between two families from the same background. Instead of coexistence, the idea of “survival of the fittest” is somewhat adopted. Eventually, after all the ruckus and drama, the Kim family manages to put Geun-sae and Moon-gwang back to where they really “belong”- the lowest basement.

Right after this we also see the Kim family hiding under the living room table as soon as they hear the owners of the house return; just like how cockroaches hide under small spaces in fear of getting caught and killed. As soon as the family seems to be asleep, they run and escape at their first chance, back to their original “hole”.

Water happens to play a rather significant role throughout the film. Initially, we see a man urinating outside the Kims’ window. They try to fight him away by throwing water at him, which only turns everything messier. Later in the movie, we see how the Kim basement is flooded with sewage water after heavy rainfall. Clearly, water hasn’t been their best friend after all. The flooded basement also gives a push to a domino effect which is to follow.

When the family is called back to work the next day, which is a weekend, a blatant tension can be sensed, best expressed by Ki-taek (Kang-Ho Song). While Ki-taek is driving Yeon-kyo back home from the market, we see her talk to a friend on a call about how the rain had been a blessing clearing up the sky of pollution. We learn how the rain has different effects on people from different classes. While it dragged one family out of their house, it pulled back another from a camping trip, only to appreciate the house more.

The movie reaches its climax when Gyun-sae manages to set himself free and runs up to attack, first Ki-woo, and next his sister Ki-jung. When Ki-taek kills Gyun-sae and tries to save his daughter, Park Dong-ik just asks him to abandon his own family and drive them away. This simply shows how little he cared about the “lower” class family, yet again creating a class division.

Out of frustration, killing Dong-ik, Ki-taek hides in the very place he wished to escape- the lowest basement. He became what he was trying to get rid of. The Park family left the house giving way to yet another rich German family to take their place. No matter what, a richer family will always be above Ki-taek, leaving him to remain a mere parasite.

With Ki-jung dead, Ki-woo and Chung-sook return to their original places in the semi-basement. When Ki-woo decodes a message from his father, he pledges to work hard his entire life until he is able to buy the house, and then all Ki-taek needs to do is “walk upstairs”. We even see the family reuniting, but Bong shoots his final bullet as a sure-fire, bringing Ki-woo back in his home to let his audience know that life isn’t so convenient, and his aspirations can never really turn to reality. This again reflects a very realistic image.

Why Parasite is adored throughout the world is because this same plot which is set in South Korea could have been set in New York or London or even New Delhi. Class division is a universal concept and affects each one of us in one way or the other.


Feature Image Credit: CJ Entertainment

Aditi Gutgutia

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