S1: Right now. Charlotte great. Paper.
S2: What’s in the box. Yo.
S3: Yo yo yo.
S4: Hello and welcome to this late spoiler special podcast today. We will be spoiling the new film from Bong Joon ho parasite. I’m really excited to talk about this extremely twist filled movie with forced Whitman Slate’s culture editor who’s here with me in Slate’s studios in New York. Hey Dana forest and talking to us from the East Bay is Slate culture writer Ingo Kang. Angle Hello hello. All right so guys this is kind of a major task to spoil parasite for a few reasons for one thing. I just feel like this is a really important movie. I really really loved this movie and I feel like maybe the first movie of this year since US since Jordan peels US that has not only haunted me for a couple of weeks after seeing it but that I can’t stop talking about with everyone who’s seen it the minute you ask someone if they’ve seen parasite you launch into a conversation about it which often like the conversations about us did you know get into these interpretive details and different ways of looking at the facts that are on the screen. So if any movie ever needed to be spoiled this year besides us I think it’s parasite. And as per usual I’m going to just go around and quickly get your responses forest I know you loved the movie too you’re definitely a thumbs up.
S5: Yeah I mean you know I think often with these Spoiler Specials we try to get people who have differing opinions on the movies. There’s some people who are pro and some people who are con but there’s it seems to be just no one at this point who has gone on this movie and I kind of don’t expect the role be a lot of people. It’s really really great. And also quite likable and fun and thrilling and like us had its detractors partly because it gets so far into a very sort of abstract and supernatural realm. And this movie manages to do so many of the same things but in this really like this really grounded concrete way I keep going back and forth about whether I think parasite is vastly better or whether they’re just like these two doppelganger movies in my head that are equally great and yet doppelganger movies about doppelganger.
S4: It gets into a real mirror game. What about you are you going to bring any shade to this love fest for parasite.
S6: I am happy to bring say for us but this movie is directed by a bunch Ho and he is I don’t know like he’s been one of my favorite directors for the last ten years I think ever since I saw the host and mother with her two Korean movies that he made and he’s also made more recently stateside or with a sort of Hollywood actors Snowpiercer and. And this movie for me is in so many ways like a return to form and just like a perfect distillation of so many of the things that like bong is truly excellent at and so yeah sorry. Like you’ve got total unanimity here. Just like a lot of us for this movie.
S4: But even if we’re not fighting each other about the movie’s quality I still feel like there’s a lot of interesting roads to go down.
S5: Yeah there’s a lot to unpack. I feel like we should also lay our credentials down. I think we’re kind of all bong super fans here. I mean I know that Dana you and I spoiled Snowpiercer back in the day and I think you didn’t like it quite as much and I know Ingo I think doesn’t like Snowpiercer quite as much a lot of people don’t like Snowpiercer quite as much for example.
S4: I mean both Snowpiercer an oak jar completely original. I mean they’re fantastic in that sense is that they are completely true to his vision and his vision is like no one else’s.
S7: But I would say that this movie I agree with and it was sort of the to me it’s the culmination it kind of brings together everything that was great about his earlier Korean movies with the scale you know the elaborate scale and just sort of gorgeous production of his of his whatever you call them international productions. Yeah my favorite movie of his is probably this and the host. But then there’s also memories of murder his yes his early maybe not his first maybe best second movie which is which is also a fantastic kind of genre mash up the way that this one is. I mean what this movie does wish on was so interesting and we’ll get into it as the conversation goes on but you know usually when I’m writing about a movie in the first paragraph or two I sort of in some way define what genre it is is it a thriller or is it a drama. Is it a comedy or is it some mixture of two different genres. But this movie and bongs in general goes so far beyond that classification that they keep on changing what they are. Right I mean this is really a Hitchcockian thriller that’s also a social satire that is also a really touching family drama but it’s extremely funny and it’s somehow operating on all those registers at once with like weird elements like a horror as well which we’ll get into.
S6: But yeah I think like the really amazing thing about the way that bong works with Sean Ripley is that you never like to see the scenes he can really like play with these like hairpins and tell them and they just sort of seem like the most natural thing in the world as opposed to someone who was like striving really hard to like struggle putting together like horror and comedy for example.
S7: Yeah he’s very very ambitious in that way and has a great deal of confidence I think I think of him as his camera is just that is its own kind of confident roving eye that knows what it wants you to look at even though you might not always know why you’re looking at that particular thing at that moment that I feel like we’re being too vague we need to get into the specifics of this story. So it roughly can be divided into three acts that each of which has a big twist at the end. Right. So let’s get into the first one as we open the movie we meet one of the two families that’s gonna be this doppelganger family right two families of four that confront each other over the course of the movie. And the first family we meet is the Kims. Who is this miserably poor family who live in a sub basement Inn in Seoul on a sort of rundown alleyway. And as we first meet them in this sub basement go you want to pick it up from there what are they doing.
S6: I love the way that this movie begins because it starts with the four of them. So there’s a mom and a dad and then there’s also an older brother and a younger sister. And essentially the two siblings are I think they’re supposed to be older teenagers and they are looking for a Wi-Fi signal that they can steal off of like whatever environ. It’s sort of like around them. And there used to be like a cafe where they used to take all of their Internet signal and now like the cafe has like shut down or something. And so like that just sort of like roaming around their house looking for a signal because otherwise they don’t have any phone service. You sort of like see their house like in this way. They’re sort of like a giant window in the living room which initially sounds nice but it only looks onto the street. And one of the things that I really like about Fong and his sense of humor is that it’s like really quite earthy. Usually when they’re looking outside the window the family just like it sort of captivated by whether some drunkard on the street is going to like piss on their window because that sort of place where they are in society. And so basically we got sort of like a tour of a house and then they sort of like end up at like a bathroom and like only by sort of like leaning over to a toilet that’s like very specific way are they able to get any sort of signal that production design of their apartment which was built specifically for the movie as was the rich family’s house that we’ll get to later is just so fantastic and one thing that’s great about it is that toilet which is just this open elevated toilet that’s like at the top.
S4: You don’t even quite see how you would fit onto it because it’s just a few feet from the ceiling of this low basement that they’re in and that in itself I mean just the way every detail in this movie means something and it has something to do with that thematic content. You know obviously we had sort of the highest point in their apartment is this is this open toilet is it is a testimony again to where they are in society right.
S8: I mean we should unpack sort of one of the obvious more thematic aspects of this scene if I’m getting the Wi-Fi which is that there’s a lot of imagery in the movie that at first at least suggests that you know there are parasites right. And so in this case they’re literally leeching you know Internet off of their neighbors. And then there’s like a closeup of an insect in their apartment early on and then they’re constantly being they’re being fumigated basically right. Like the streets are being fumigated and it just comes into their apartment. So there’s all these images that suggest that that there are sort of insects preying on the neighborhood which would be simplistic and maybe even sort of problematic if it weren’t made much more complicated later on and oh yeah the title gets pretty multivariate.
S4: So so the first plot point that matters to us is that the sun finally gets a real job. The only work that we see the family doing early on is that they fold pizza boxes for this pizza delivery chain which even that seems to be a job that they’re always on the verge of losing because they can’t fold them as fast and as efficiently as other workers.
S5: Yeah it’s very like 20 19 both in the sense that it’s like I feel like there’s a lot of globalization in this movie and so the fact that there are these people in Korea horror folding pizza boxes and also it’s like a total gig economy job where they can’t get any food like consistent salary or anything and there’s a real indignity to that scene where they interact with the very young manager for the pizza place right.
S7: He’s essentially telling them you can always be replaced there are a million people in line behind you who can fold boxes better than you can and that will come up later when they get jobs where at least apparently you know they’re slightly higher on the social ladder and treated with a bit more respect.
S4: But the son of the Kim family who’s played wonderfully by a young actor named Choi Woo sick eventually gets a real job so his friend who’s about to go studying abroad for a year recommends the son for four for this job.
S6: I think really interestingly this friend who is in college because his family can’t afford to call it comes over with this gigantic rock called a scholar stone and basically like the stone is placed in a very fancy like wooden box and brings it over as a gift. And basically the scholars down it’s supposed to bring wealth to the family which is like both like very much a foreshadowing but also like ironic as we’ll see. And so I think it’s interesting also that this wealthy friend who does get go to college is essentially in love with his Tootie and tells toi tics character. Like I trust you not to have any sort of like romantic entanglement with like my student. And there’s sort of this implication that like because his friend is sort of like wants to have I think a place holder for his job is poor isn’t a viable sexual rival.
S9: Which of course turns out to be a mistake right.
S7: So when Choi was six character arrives at this at the rich people’s house I feel like it’s an important story but when he does. Because we’re essentially transitioning to the second part of the movie in which the two families encounter each other. Do you want to describe the park’s house and just what it looks like.
S5: I mean basically it’s an extremely modern house. It’s extremely spacious. It has its main feature are just huge windows like huge floor to ceiling windows which are used wonderfully throughout the movie. So I guess you know if you picture sort of like Frank Lloyd Wright house it’s kind of like that.
S4: And it’s supposed to have been designed by this famous Korean architect who was also its first owner and he in a way I mean even though he never appears in the movie there’s a portrait of him on the wall and and he kind of becomes this to me sort of like class patriarch looming over the movie right. What’s what’s important to this family the parks that lives in this house is not just money but prestige right. I mean sort of education social status you know mobility and and the architect seem to represent all of that because he’s this internationally renowned artistic figure right.
S5: And you know one of the ways in which everybody is constantly chasing prestige in this movie that really resonated with me as somebody who you know at one point after college I taught English in Spain and then I was going to teach English in Korea. And and if you ever spend any time on the forums for English teaching assistants in Korea they always talk about how the fact that you’re American and especially frankly at least according to all these people on the forums like if you’re white and blond and blue eyed like you will get paid more. And that’s something that keeps coming back and that’s where they take on American names and then well we should get into the chain of recommendations a little bit as they call it. But one of them ends up faking being an American just to be more desirable or at least having studied does she say she’s American.
S8: I think she so she grew up in. Well I mean same difference maybe but I think she lies and claims that she grew up in the United States.
S4: Yeah I did just want to point out that you had a house just like the underground apartment of the Kims I mean there there really those are the two main sets of the movie although there’s a few things that happen out in the world. A couple really important things that happened out in the world but those two sets are really important in their geography and they’re kind of spatial orientation that window that they look out on. You know the equivalent of the Kims very murky window looking out onto a guy pissing on their building right. I mean it’s all just there’s almost a direct mirroring of every element of one apartment in the other. Right.
S6: For me like the first thought of this movie it plays out like a really delicious. HEIST movie it’s just that like the thing that they’re trying to gain or accrue is like social capital. I think like what is really fun about this movie is that you see that the poor family has like studied wealth essentially enough to know how to devise like their own class desirability for the rich family in spite of like not really having any. And so when the poor son sort of come in and like knows exactly how to like thing a sort of authority that’s mixed with like a bit of like artistic temperament in order to trick the wealthy mother who he’s been told is like a little gullible a little like silly as a person he basically knows like exactly how to play her. And so instead of sort of like doing like a straightforward lesson because the wealthy mother wants to step in unlike the first lesson he’s sort of like that’s this like very funny.
S10: At almost where he touches the student’s pulse and sort of like diagnosis that like she response is dressed like a certain way. And so it’s not just the sort of like imparting of knowledge but almost this idea that like he has these like other powers that he is able to impart to her to give her an advantage and then. Basically he finds out that the wealthy mother is convinced that her like eight year old son is a Picasso in the making because she shows him this like very like kids like painting that like she has on her wall and the poor son sees this and basically passes off a sister as a renowned painter and a possible art therapist. And he is able to also like sell his sister off as a desirable addition to the household by saying oh well she was educated in America and she doesn’t really take just any old clients off the street like the little boy has to be worth her time. And so there are these ways that like because the poor family knows exactly what the rich family wants. Out of their help because it’s not just like Labor that they’re looking for. It’s like it’s like Labor plus that sort of combined look like proces.
S7: I think a lot of the fun of this like first half of the movie is them figuring out how to scam this rich family in exactly the way that they want to be scams that especially comes into play when the sister or the sister of the Kims the poor family comes to work for the parks because it’s revealed all of a sudden that she of all the shysters of the family is maybe the most skilled among them. In fact I think it’s her who upgrades from art tutor to art therapist right. I think she goes in as an art tutor and then when she sees of scamming that’s there for the taking she is the one who says Oh well looks like your son has gone through all this trauma the mom seems convinced that her son is emotionally disturbed although he just seems to be your average sort of hyperactive kid and. And the sister uses that to worm her way in and say Oh well actually if you’re willing to pay an even more pretty penny I can work as an art therapist as well.
S10: And also your son needs to see me like four times a week.
S4: Right. So she is the one who sort of ups the ante and and also finds her way clear to getting her dad hired and the way she does that is one of the funniest stretches of the early part which I agree. Who has the fun of a heist movie. There’s almost like an Ocean’s Eleven energy to that period of the movie when the family’s starting to infiltrate and how she gets how she gets her dad the job is the family’s driver.
S5: Right. Well I should say it’s been like two months since I’ve seen this movie so I’m a little fuzzy on some of the stuff but basically she like drops her panties in the car right.
S4: When getting a ride home from the driver.
S8: Yeah. And then implies that he was a creep and came onto her.
S10: I think the implication is that he was having sex with somebody else in the family is like a car where like the rich father gets taken back to his job and back from it. And so essentially the wealthy family was really into this idea of having like a young hip driver. But once it’s clear that like he it’s not as discreet as he should be or so like the rich family is made to believe that then he’s fired. And then the father of the poor family is then installed as the driver and then the final piece of the puzzle is there’s then sort of like a loyal servant that sort of like almost came with the mansion. It’s the sort of middle aged woman in like a grey uniform who knows exactly how. Sort of like servant to the very wealthy people is supposed to behave. And she had been the servant of the architect when he lived in the house now like the wealthy family employees her. And they essentially don’t have any complaints about her except for the fact that maybe she like is a little too much of their food that would seem like very hilarious to me because like of course there’s like very wealthy family with begrudge there a live in housekeeper like three dollars a week or whatever. Through like a very elaborate scheme convince the wealthy family that their housekeeper has tuberculosis by triggering the housekeepers like a very rare very extreme peach allergy.
S9: And so when they sort of pass off like a napkin they’ll look like a very like the store looking hot sauce for blood.
S10: Then the housekeeper is sent away. And the mom of the poor family is installed. So like by the end of that first thought of the movie they have every single one of the poor family working for the rich family and the rich family has no idea that you’re all related and also that they are slowly sort of have grown like entirely dependent on this family in order to provide for their own family.
S4: I just have to jump in and say that the editing of that sequence the montage with the peach fuzz and making her cough and then you know at the very last moment putting the hot sauce on the napkin is just fantastic. I was one of those moments when comedy and suspense come together just perfectly in this movie.
S5: Yeah. I mean he’s a total master of that stuff and he also is extremely good. I mean we were talking a little bit about the way he bends genre and he’s extremely good at making genuinely really suspenseful sequences out of extremely silly heist concepts so in this case we have this like peach allergy and the fake hot sauce blood and so on. And then later there’s this whole Hitchcockian like ticking clock sequence except instead of there being you know a bomb that’s about to go off it’s just that the housekeeper needs to make a particular noodle dish that the son loves in time in the eight minutes before the sun comes home and it’s it’s like genuinely really suspenseful and hilarious that it’s a noodle dish.
S4: Yes. Well that in that moment I would say is kind of the pivot that great great scene or sequence really the long set of scenes where the rich family go out camping the poor family essentially move into their house for the weekend and are just partying down in their living room. And then that turns in to wait the rich family’s coming back and they want this particular dish. They want it in eight minutes. Meanwhile the entire house is just covered in liquor and you know snacks. And everybody has to hide. That’s another those moments where there’s a enormous amount of plot turns being packed into a very short period of time. And just the editing of that scene is really brilliant and very slap sticky in the end right. I mean all of the hiding under tables and having to crawl out at just the right moment it’s just one of those moments where slapstick comes into play in a beautiful way. Do you have any thoughts about that.
S9: I think pivotal sequence of the Kim’s partying down at the park says I love that theme because like by this sort of like midway point of the movie they basically complete their high. It’s then you’re sort of left wondering like well what’s left. And so the poor family while the rich family has gone camping and I have to say like the camping detail was perfect because it’s all about like wealthy people who have decided to voluntarily spend tons of money to sort of act for a weekend like they don’t actually have any resources they while like the rich family is out camping the poor family are like basically like in their living room like eating all of the food drinking all of the liquor and sort of daydreaming to one another about what it might be like if the sun actually did end up marrying like his student and this gigantic mansion would become their own house. And of course that’s right when everything sort of like begins to fall apart for them.
S4: Right. And it’s also the moment that the movie does one of these hairpin tone shifts that we were talking about early in the podcast force you talk about the big twist in that scene.
S5: Right. So the big twist in this movie is that you know whereas US had like one set of doppelgangers. This movie has a whole nother set of doppelgangers. So in addition to this rich family and the poor family who lives in the sub basement apartment there is also a whole nother family that lives underneath the Park’s house in this bunker. And basically the way we learn that is that the housekeeper comes back and then basically I mainly remember a long shot of a camera sort of plunging deeper and deeper into the house and writing like Holy shit.
S7: And oh yeah you’re right I mean it’s a moment when it’s revealed that as low as the Kims are in the social ladder there are people that are even beneath them and that’s the moment that you start to see oh this isn’t the simple class satire that we thought it was about you know the rich versus the poor it is actually about systemic poverty and you know the way that there’s always somebody below you on the ladder. So yeah the old housekeeper shows up in the middle of their wild partying night and insists on getting in seems very desperate to go and retrieve something and that’s when we discover because she shoves this shelf aside in the kitchen that there’s an entire secret subterranean floor that neither we nor the parks themselves who own the house seem to know about.
S5: Yeah I mean thematically it’s it’s rich in the way that you suggested Dana. And I’m sure we’re going to talk about more and also it’s just we should say it’s really well set up like this movie is extremely tightly and intricately plotted an example of this is anger you were talking earlier about how the parks. The one thing they don’t like about this housekeeper is that she supposedly eats too much and then we basically eventually realize it’s no that she’s just been sneaking food down to her husband who lives in this bunker in the basement.
S10: At one point like she does get accused of eating food down into this bunker and she said like no I pay for all of the food myself and took a great deal of pride in it. The reason why this bunker exists in the first place is because she explains that the architect basically made this like nuclear bunker in case there is light in case there an attack by North Korea. And so you have this like extremely sturdy bunker where it’s like sort of like river for like only like the wealthiest of the wealthy feel like you get to afford in Seoul at the very beginning of this podcast we had mentioned that like the poor family had been getting Wi-Fi from a cafe. And it turns out that like that husband had been the owner of the cafe. And when the cafe folded he was basically chased by loan sharks and he knew that he would never be able to repay that money and therefore he has been hiding out like in this bunker for the last four years.
S7: OK that’s great. Now I did not put together. I didn’t I didn’t get the cafe detail either.
S6: Not at all the first time and I remember thinking that tea towel was so smart because it contrast sort of like the like casual cosmopolitanism of like a rich family versus sort of like this other kind of like middle class driving level of cosmopolitanism that like they tried to reach and I can’t quite grasp what it’s like of course represented by the failure of that Taiwanese cafe.
S8: Right. So there’s two things I want to get to here. I mean the first the next big plot beat is that the old housekeeper manages to film them basically talking to each other like family members on her phone I believe it is. And then she it leads to this great. It’s sort of like the noodle scene that we’re talking about for this great standoff scene where it’s almost like you’re a classic you know hostage situation or quote unquote Mexican standoff scene in an action movie except for all of the suspense revolves around her wielding her phone like it’s a gun and she’s ready to text the evidence at anytime to blackmail the family. Right. She she says at least as the subtitles put it stop right there or push the send button which is you know instead of stop right there I’ll shoot. It’s just like I’m going to send this text message. You really feel the great costs of what’s the what we’ve come to think of as the poor family when they decide to essentially beat up the banker couple and like lock them inside the bunker.
S9: Presumably to starve to death.
S4: And before we leave this this scene where the you know I would call it sort of the turning of the movie where the bunker people are discovered it’s worth mentioning that while the rich woman Mrs. Park is eating this special noodle dish that she demanded be prepared in eight minutes for her arrival she’s telling the housekeeper the mother of the Kim family the story of her son’s traumatized nation and how he remembers seeing this ghost in the House and how that’s turned him into this disturbed little kid that she now thinks he is. And as she tells that story we see a flashback. And of course what he was really seeing was a face peering up out of the bunker. The husband of the housekeeper who nobody knew was down there.
S5: So there’s there’s two things that we have to discuss before we get to the climactic birthday scene which are first you know when the parks come back. We get this scene that I think is kind of a microcosm of the whole movie where the Mr. Kim who I don’t know if we said on here he’s played by song Kang Ho who’s Moon was along on big music. Right. Bong longtime bong collaborator also just like a very famous and accomplished actor in Korea. But specifically with Bong he’s made memories of murder and the host. And he’s also in superhero Snowpiercer. He’s one of the few Korean characters in that movie which has an extremely international cast. I guess it’s mostly American and British but so anyway. Mr. Kim in the scene that’s kind of a microcosm of the movie gets stuck under this table. So he’s again kind of like underneath whereas the parks are just like lounging on the couch watching their son play you know kind of cowboys and Indians where he’s going to sleep in his teepee in the yard and like they start having sex and he has to just kind of sit there and listen to it. I think is it also during the scene where they also start to talk about how they keep saying that like poor people have a particular smell.
S4: Yeah. And that becomes really important later on. I mean that’s that is it is kind of an emotional crux of the movie. I feel like because it’s a moment when you realize the humiliation that the Father the Son Kang Ho character feels you know every moment of his job. I mean he’s been treated pretty well by the guy that he drives for and he’s managed also to get into this family scam of sort of I’m this very loyal employee and I’m this top VIP driver and you know he’s made up this firm that he supposedly works for and and but it’s a moment when it really comes down to brass tacks and the guy he worked for is talking about how he smells like basement mildew basically and the sting that that causes in him is something that’s going to come up later in the big climactic finale right.
S5: It’s one of many reminders in this movie that like there’s this idea that basically no matter what these people do and how hard they work they’re never really going to be you know climb up the ladder of society. And so the other thing is the flood.
S7: I mean I just I have to just admire the filmmaking of the flood. All there really is to say about the flood is I mean I was talking about how this is a movie about two interiors the basement apartment and the gorgeous architect house. But then we suddenly get his exterior scene it’s almost like the movie’s two biggest set pieces. You know the party sequence at the at the architects house and this flood sequence come right back to back and it’s just one of those moments where literally heat bong is pulling out the stops. You know he built an entire set. I heard bong talking about this after the screening I saw and he apparently built an entire set in a water tank that whole alley that they live in is just a built set so that he could flood it completely with this sewage water and it’s this combination again of kind of like earthy scatological comedy right there kind of swimming in shit literally and and just high action thriller drama. So the Kims apartment is completely flooded. The only thing that they managed to salvage that we see is the Scholar’s Stone that Ingrid was talking about which seems really important to the boy who’s gotten it from his friend. He takes it and hugs it to his chest and removes it from the apartment.
S11: It’s very metaphorical as everyone in this movie is always pointing out. I get this idea that one of the things they say that about.
S8: But no the stone totally is. I mean part of the joke with the stone right is just that it’s so completely useless to this poor family who just needs like material comfort and Wi-Fi and so on and then this one person who’s managed to gain a few advantages just give them gives them like a big rock that’s supposed to have like either figurative or supernatural. Significance.
S7: And that’s I mean it’s more than useless as we’ll get to. I mean it’s it’s really harmful to them as the movie goes on but it is one of the things he salvages from the apartment. And anyway I mean all there is say about that flood piece I think it’s just that it’s a kind of magnificent piece of filmmaking that also again as every scene in this movie seems to do underlines those the same themes of social stratification and the kind of hopelessness of the life that they’re living so right after they’ve just had this luxurious fantasy that they’re going to move into the architect’s house and marry into that family etc. they find themselves just trying to salvage a couple of things from their house in this sea of sewage.
S5: Yeah. And so they kind of reach their low point and then there’s a sort of twist of the knife where you know it’s like this whole sequence about how shit like literally rolls downhill and then later we get this sequence of the parks talking about it. They just say that rain was a blessing because to them it just like cleared up all the pollution and where they live up on this nice hill apparently and this nice house like it was it was just a cleansing rain right.
S4: It made they’re not nice lives just a little bit nicer. There’s also a kind of incredible scene of the Kims pulling themselves together out of nothing. The next morning because they’re sleeping in this huge gymnasium where the whole neighborhood has been relocated after the flood.
S7: They get a call from the parks the next morning saying oh guess what. We’ve decided to throw a surprise birthday party for our son and we’re gonna need all of you our employees here in fancy clothes at this particular time of day. And you know so that the Kims really have to pull it together. But just going through the goodwill table at this at this emergency shelter and kind of trying to make themselves look like the VIP employees that they’ve been pretending to be. And by the way it’s Sunday. And also can you get here and like the next two hours so we get a montage of this party being put together in the yard by the hired labor that is the Kim family. And then we get this great birthday party climax scene where all three of the families including the subterranean one are going to converge in this maelstrom of violence.
S6: So when we last saw the anchor couple essentially they were so injured that the woman who had been the housekeeper hadn’t had a concussion and then she eventually sort of like dies very dies off screen.
S4: We never see her die. I think which is a really sad part of the movie.
S12: I think that her her to her death happens off screen and the bunker man has basically been tied to a pipe or something in the basement. He has loosened himself and is basically coming up from the basement from the bunker in order to get his revenge in the four years that he’s been trapped down there. He had sort of like game this like weird loyalty to the wealthy family. And so the only people that he really wants to target is the poor family and they are sort of like in different costumes essentially like partly it’s like the help and the father the chauffeur is dressed as a Native American because there’s there’s like a long running theme of the wealthy boy being obsessed with what he would call Indians and essentially having like this like weird when cater to and there’s like a whole scene where. The art tutor the girl from the poor family is supposed to be attacked by Indians and the little boy supposed to like come rescue her. And so where there’s already sort of the like staging protests violence and then.
S1: The guy from the bunker comes out and essentially sort of like starts to wreak his vengeance which is quite haphazard. I think it’s like a good word for it like the sun from this poor family ends up sort of unconscious in the kitchen very quickly because of him and not just unconscious but we assume dead right.
S7: I mean lying in a pool of blood because he’s been struck by metaphorically enough the Scholar’s Stone that he now is carrying around with him as this kind of talisman.
S12: Yeah. And then he is I think stabs the girl in the poor family and like all of this like crazy trauma that’s happening. It gives a little boy a seizure. And so the only thing that like the wealthy father wants to do is take his son to the hospital. The father of the poor family is sort of paralyzed because he still wants to keep up the appearance of being like the chauffeur. But he also needs to attend to his bleeding daughter. And so that’s sort of like at the point at which the scam completely comes loose. The mother of the poor family and the banker guy sort of like end up in a big tussle on the floor because the mother had sort of been this gets like professional athlete. In her previous life. Ends up killing the bunker guy with a sister Bob.
S7: Doesn’t she stab him with a shit kabob that’s got a bunch of food and sausage on it and stuff. I think that’s right. Well I just did it pointing out putting it out because once again that scene is horribly gruesome and sad but also brings in a lot of comedy and action elements.
S8: Yeah I mean it’s like it’s staged and there’s very like kind of North by Northwest kind of way in which it’s it’s this really gruesome bloody scene but it’s also a birthday party and it’s like extremely Sunny like it’s the most brightly lit scene in the movie by far. I feel like so it has a lot of fun with that right.
S7: It also has the kind of dramatic irony of a Hitchcock scene where for a long time we know what’s happening in the party goers don’t. And there’s actually a shot where all the party goes we’re looking in one direction right because it’s the lighting of the birthday candles I think and. And only we know that this you know underground bunker long bunker bound crazed killer is coming up behind them with a knife.
S8: Right. Well and specifically what triggers the seizure from the boy I think is that you know it’s not just that he like sees this guy come up but for him it’s the ghost who lives in the basement and like he’s trying to have his trauma recovery he can recover from his ruined birthday party but instead the like monster from the basement appears and so he’s he you know he starts losing it. And yeah. So Mr. Kim is given this terrible choice between you know driving his boss and like stopping his daughter from bleeding out. And I think what he does is hand over the car keys right. And like there’s a sense where that there’s a sort of false key that’s where we think things are starting to resolve. But it’s then I believe that Mr. Park the sort of rich dad like it just can’t deal with the smell of these people who have been in sewage all night or whatever. And Mr. Kim picks up on that and finally just like loses that and stabs him right.
S7: Yeah. And that’s exactly the motivation for it. Yeah it’s just that that little sniff and that’s one of those examples of you know a seed that was planted earlier just paying off in this immensely satisfying and also horrifying way. All right. Even just contemplate that he makes me want to run back and see he parasite again and see how it all stacks up together. But we should get to the coda of the movie which is I mean it’s really more than a coda. It’s almost like a final act where all these various danger mounts happen. We jump ahead in time we don’t know exactly how much but we suddenly also for the first time get a voiceover There hasn’t been any use of voiceover previously in the movie but suddenly we hear the boy’s voice. Kim Sun Choi was Schick telling us what the unravelling of all of this was in the courts and legally and sort of where were how they got to be where they are at. At the at the end of the movie. So one of the things that happens is that the entire families scheme gets unravelled and the mother and son have to spend some time in jail. All we know at that point is what the mother and son know which is that the father had disappeared immediately after the stabbing incidents at the party and is now the object of this national manhunt that we hear about on TV the whereabouts of the daughter we learned in this very sad way when we see the mother in son once their prison term for fraud has been served. Going to visit her grave her kind of mausoleum site and you realize that she bled to death at the party and that the family’s completely torn apart because of that they’re back living in the basement again completely poor and they don’t know where the father is and have heard nothing from him. So the big dramatic twist of the last part of the movie is is for the son to discover where his father is.
S1: And so it seems to me he sort of like returns. Too. Well now.
S12: He goes to the woods where he can sort of get like a view of the House from quite afar and he feels this light flickering and he had sort of known that there was a way in which the bunker man when he had been alive had been using morse code in order to communicate with the little boy. Basically the little boy wasn’t really sure what was happening but. The bunker man. And it’s lonely and that’s the sort of you think that Morse code to flick on lights in the house like from the basement. And so when. The Sun this is that there is also a continuous flickering of light. He figures out that his father is in the bunker. And then we get this like very dreamy scene where. Throughout the movie The son had been saying like I’m finally going to buckle down figure out some way to go to college I’m going to get married and I’m going to do everything the right way and I’m going to become wealthy beyond the imagination and I’m going to buy that house and I’m going to reunite with my father and like my whole family can come together again.
S4: Right and there’s this great fantasy scene of all of them meeting again on the lawn of the house.
S8: Right. Well and we don’t. Yes I think that we’re not really supposed to know it’s a fantasy. Right. Like there’s it’s just beat was just being shown to us. And there was a moment in my head where I was briefly like Oh now this movie better not fuck this up. And just like me and grow up to buy this house and free his dad which is totally how this movie would end in if it was made by pretty much any American studio.
S4: Yeah. Which is hard to imagine in the first place. Such a movie ever being.
S8: Sure. Although you know we had us right. Like it’s not entirely out of the question.
S4: But yeah but to me that was clear it was it was a fantasy.
S12: Like once you realized that this entire thing has been a fantasy sequence and it’s just like one more layer of like the sun or a sort of like this a wealthy family constantly dreaming that one day they will be rich. You realize that like the class difference between them and like whoever might live in that mansion is so fast that there’s just like no way of like ever reaching that level of wealth which means that like the sun.
S9: And like his mother we’ll never be able to reunite with like his father ever again.
S8: And so that’s sort of like where you are left with at the end of the movie right isn’t the final shot just the sun back in the depressing sub basement apartment. Like I feel like they show his whole fantasy of upward mobility and if he just pulls himself up by his bootstraps he’ll save his dad and buy this house and they’ll all live happily ever after. And then there’s just like a cut back to him alone in his depressing. Yeah I think. And and it’s it’s just such a perfect ending. I mean as an American watching it I think it’s natural to like it’s basically like they’re showing what we think of as the American dream. And then the final reveal is like nope that’s all it is just a dream. It’s like an illusion. And then the movie ends.
S4: And I think it’s even more than a cut back to the basement apartment it’s a downward tilt right. I mean it’s one of those moments again where every camera movement that bong uses signifies something. And I think the very last thing you see is similar to the first movement you see the camera do sort of going down from street level into the semi basement apartment that he still lives in where he’s you know dictating this letter to his father that will never be as far as we can imagine and read or heard. So yeah I mean whatever brief moment of respite you got from that fantasy sequence is is really undercut by that brutal final shot.
S9: I think there’s a lot of ways that like analyzing a movie you can sort of like like the press here and your enjoyment of it. And I think that like with this conversation the more we sort of pick it apart and identify it like all of the different elements that contribute toward this like farcical film I’ve really grown to appreciate that even more. I hope that was the same for you guys.
S7: Yeah it made me want to see it more. I mean this is one of those movies that the minute it ended I wanted it to start rolling again so I could just see to how the whole thing was put together because it’s very I mean to make a joke very much in the movie spirit its architectural you know it’s really built from the ground up in this very elaborate way. And so even are talking through it even though we’ve all seen it fairly recently. I mean it’s really hard to remember how all these moving parts fit together and this conversation made me want to run back to the theater and receive it to think about it some more.
S8: Yeah I mean we keep talking about how every camera movement means something and that’s not a coincidence like bong has talked about how he’s very deliberate and storyboarding out every single camera movement and his movies like every every frame.
S5: And I can’t wait to see it again I’m also like it’s I’m a little bit frustrated that it’s a hard see again right now because it’s selling out constantly even this past weekend the 930 a.m. showings in New York were sold out. But it’s also really fun that this movie that is as accessible as it is it is a movie that’s in Korean with subtitles and has no major movie stars and yet it’s still doing quite well so far and I hope it continues to do well and I hope it wins.
S4: Oh it’s extremely gratifying yeah that it had as big an opening as it did as a as a opener Justin in the big coastal cities and now as it starts to open wider across the country in the fall I think it’s going to be one of those movies that has a really long tail and that people are still talking about for the rest of the year and that hopefully we’ll get some awards recognition although as you say with a subtitled movie from Korea it’s not necessarily that obvious that it will.
S5: All right although I think the hope is that it will succeed on the Roman model right. Like Rama was a subtitled movie with no major movie stars and yet it managed to get itself a best picture nomination and to be a real contender. And so I hope that’s what happens with this movie and I think we’ve shown I’d certainly like it holds up to the scrutiny of being discussed for hours or months.
S4: Yeah it’s one of those movies that satisfyingly smarter than you are. You know that when you think you have it figured out it always stays a step ahead and does something unexpected. OK. Our love fest is coming to an end. Thank you forest. For coming in to spoil parasite. Thanks Dana. Thank you for having me.
S7: All right our engineer today was Merritt Jacob. Our producer is Rosemary Bilson. If you have ideas for future shows or movies you would like us to spoil you can always write as it spoilers at Slate dot com and for Forrest Wickman and in Kansas Dana Stevens will talk to you soon.