Bong Joo-Ho’s Parasite (2019), besides winning the Oscar for the best picture and the best direction, sheds light on one of the most concerning issues of the contemporary time – economic inequality. The visual narrative’s ability to demonstrate one of the central issues of our era makes this film a masterpiece, writes MD Talebur Islam Rupom
You know what kind of plan never fails? No plan at all.
If you make a plan, life never works out that way.
PARASITE is full of surprises. Its budget was USD 11 million but then it became the highest grossing South Korean movie of all time with a theater earning of whopping USD 266 million worldwide. It has not stopped there only. This comedy crime thriller drama bagged four Oscars including the best picture and best director by defeating all the heavyweight nominees at the 2019 Academy Awards.
The film resembles of present-day society from the beginning till the very end portraying the massive income inequalities, differences in socio-economic class and hurdles of a standard living through various characters, especially through the story of two families.
Nonetheless, the storytelling keeps grabbing the attention of the audience till the last moment of the movie with surprises and even afterwards makes the viewers ponder. Although the film is set and shot in South Korea, perhaps, it is completely relatable to Bangladesh in every context and also to the most of the countries across the world. Hence, this review will connect it with the situation of contemporary Bangladesh as well as the world on accounts income inequalities, social class and desperation in the society among people and most importantly, the devastating collective consequences.
The movie starts with Kim family (father Ki-Taek played by Song Kang-ho, mother Chung-Sook by Chang Hyae-Jin) who lives in a basement apartment with their two children and works in informal sector such as making pizza boxes. Their children (son Ki-Woo starred by Choi Woo-Shik, and daughter Ki-Jeong by Park So-dam) try to find Wi-Fi connection from the adjacent shop by stealing the internet connection and then get signal at the bathroom. The condition of their lives is so miserable that they have to breath in the smoke used for killing insects and celebrate their family meal on the occasion of connecting to the internet.
Thence, they are eager to change their condition of life but has nothing to do so such as getting a top college degree or stable income that can help them to lead a desirable standard life. Then Ki-Woo’s friend, leaving for abroad, approaches him to give tuition on English to a high school girl belonging to an elite family with a condition. But Ki-Woo has never been to a topnotch institution, on the other hand, the elites always demand degree from reputed colleges which usually is so expensive. Ki-Woo prepares forged documents of such a college with the help of her creative sister to impress the prospective employer.
Henceforth, Park family appears in the movie with the entry of Ki-Woo at the Parks’ residence who are extremely rich and also have two children. Likewise, with the help of Ki-Woo, rest of the Kim family are able to employ themselves one after another in various professional services such art teacher, driver, housekeeper to the Park family by the deception (building formal credentials and relationship) and by their merit (you ought to watch the film in order to see the smart way of conning someone).
They replaced two of the old employees of the Park house by framing them. This is how they start to enjoy a lucrative life and that too under the same roof. But it does not last long. Soon the former housekeeper (Moon-Gwang) comes to the Parks’ residence when the Parks go for a holiday camp. The Kim family finds out a hidden bunker at the Parks’ house where her husband is hiding for long at the bunker secretly.
Moon-Gwang and her husband shared the reason of living in the bunker that their income is not enough to survive and spend in housing. When Moon-Gwang used to work in the house, for ages, she provides food secretly to her husband. The couple starts to blackmail the Kim family as the truth reveals. But all of a sudden, things completely change when the Park family returns to their home.
Before proceeding further in the film, let us see the rationality of Parasite with the recent report of the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs which has shown that income inequality has increased in most developed countries and in some middle-income countries. The study stated that the richest one percent of the population has increased their relative share of global income between 1990 and 2015, while the bottom 40 per cent of the world’s population earned less than a quarter of that income in the surveyed countries.
Inequality creates huge divergences in standard of living, wealth, availing opportunities, infant mortality, exposure to environmental harms and many more. The major similarity in all countries, money engenders more money, but apparently, it does not generate more wellbeing, more political influence, and more opportunities across the board for the commoners. So, it becomes more difficult for people with poverty and limitations to go ahead in decent way. On contrast, some of them prefer to go with shortcut and conniving ways in search of a decent life as the way it happens in Parasite.
Simultaneously, the income inequality of Bangladesh has been rising more than ever. In fact, Bangladesh has ranked third in terms of increasing ultra-rich population according to Wealth X’s recent report. To add more, Bangladesh is performing badly in lessening the gap between the rich and the poor since it is ranked 148 among 157 countries in this year's ‘Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index’.
Whereas, according to social scientists, when Gini coefficient of income inequality is above 0.5, (presently 0.483 in Bangladesh) a country remains in the high risk of social unrest. Point to be noted, the Gini coefficient is measured on a scale of 0 to 1; the closer it is to 1, the higher the inequality is in the society. Statistically, even though Bangladesh is considered as one of the world’s fastest growing nations taking national GDP into account, the development of the economy is not accessible to the maximum number of the people, rather rich becomes richer and poor becomes poorer. On top of that, the system and society also create the obstacle what portrays in the Parasite.
For example, nepotism and favouritism are deeply rooted practice in our society and the elite of Bangladesh maintains such a cloud that only they can avail the facilities with allowing rarely any outsider there. They continue as the syndicate of onion business does during the manmade deficiency of onions. Apart from the metaphor, People are judged by which institutions or lobbing through which they come this far.
The elites prefer to send their children to the English medium or high paid school and hire house tutors from some particular institutions. The irony is that the moments when the elite and privilege class motivate the nation and its youth to go forward when the preachers are cushioned by their privilege. On the contradictory side, they are the lead characters to refrain the common people to reach the top of the ladder.
Parasite reminds us one more thing -- obtaining degree in foreign countries or belonging to higher social class is already an advantage because upward social mobility is just an idea. Only few out of 165 million people in Bangladesh can affords foreign schooling. On other hand, most of the people in Bangladesh, except a handful of the priviledged class of people, have to spend their entire lives only to live with bare minimums with very limited to no chance of upgrading their economic and social class due to invisible social and economic restrains.
When the Parks came back to their home, things started to happening all around to the Kim family which made then realise overnight, ‘If you make a plan, life never works out that way. You know what kind of plan never fails? No plan at all.’ They can expect only professional relationship from the super-rich but neither empathy nor parallel respect. The tragedy ensues at the end of the movie where the consequences of inequality bring the ultimate catastrophe which does not spare from either the elite or the ‘parasites’.
In reality too, it is an absolute indication that desperate and economically marginalised will evolve someday to change their fate by themselves. Falling down dreadfully as well as losing the loved ones could be price for that. On other note, too much blue-blood can also be the cost of too much red blood. So, are you thinking about the climax? How do these all take place in Parasite? Well, you have to watch this magnificent masterpiece by Bong Joo-Ho for that.
The storytelling in this film is extraordinary, every line of dialogue, with every camera movement, every cut working artfully together to weave a complex narrative that frequently jumps genres in surprising ways. The film’s considerable technical achievements aside, however, the plot is its topical resonance, its ability to demonstrate one of the central issues of our era -- inequality -- in surprising ways.
Parasite is a film that illustrates a contemporary society not only of Bangladesh and South Korea but also of many other countries across the world.
MD Talebur Islam Rupom is a contributor with the New Age Youth.
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