The awards shows are all chattering about Parasite and its brilliance. Bong Joon-ho is nominated for Best Director at the Oscars, and everywhere you turn, someone else is talking about that enigmatic ending.
We've covered the movie's amazing montage and talked about other aspects of its brilliance, but today I want to focus on the movie's ending.
We often talk about an ending as a great place to begin. If you know a thought or a moment you want to leave the audience with, an ending is a great thing to build toward.
The ending of Parasite is so specific and memorable because it takes everything we've built that came before and recontextualizes it.
So, let's dig into trying to explain the end of Parasite and celebrate the excellent writing and directing.
Check out this video from Insider, and let's talk after!
The Shaking 'Parasite' Ending Explained (Spoilers!)
We're going to spend a lot of time talking about the final frames of Parasite, so I think we should take some time to set it up as well. The logline for Parasite is "Greed and class discrimination threaten the newly formed symbiotic relationship between the wealthy Park family and the destitute Kim clan."
But that logline is a little vague.
So let's delve into...
A Short Summary of Parasite
The Kim family is very poor. They subsist on wages earned folding pizza boxes and from stealing wifi. They're smart and determined to social climb but are not sure how. Then they meet the Parks. The Parks are the opposite of the Kims. The Parks own a spectacular home and employ lots of servants. One by one, members of the Kim family supplant the servants in the Park household.
Kim Ki-woo is a tutor for the Parks’ daughter, his sister, Ki-jung, poses as an art tutor for the Parks’ son. Their father, Ki-taek, becomes the Park's driver, and their mother, Chung-sook, becomes the housekeeper after they frame the current employees of horrible things. The Parks don’t learn that the Kims are related, and everything seems to be going fine until the housekeeper Chung-sook replaced comes calling.
Her name is Moon-gwang, and we learn she's been hiding her husband, Geun-se, in the Parks’ basement.
That's bad news for the Kims, who now have a guy on the inside who wants them dead, and someone with knowledge of the house coming to get them too.
This all boils into a murderous standoff where Geun-se and murders some members of the Kim family and even kills the patriarch of the Park family, who's home for the weekend.
Geun-se is killed by Ki-taek, who also kills the Park family’s patriarch after he scoffs at Geun-se’s “poor man smell.”
Rich people are awful.
Ki-taek runs away from the massacre, ashamed.
And the rest of the Kims disperse into the night.
Ki-taek then flees the scene.
We then flash forward to a few months later. The Parks have moved out, and a new family lives in their house. They scout the house out and notice that at night the lights flicker Morse code.
It's a message from Ki-taek telling his son he is still alive and living in the basement where the maid hid her homicidal husband.
So life has come full circle.
We learn that Ki-woo wants to save enough money to buy the house and free his father or this prison. But this is all just a fantasy hallucination. He knows this is completely impossible because of the family's actual economic despair.
The movie ends with this realization that both the Kim father and son are chained down by the economy and by being stuck in a rich person's basement.
What does the ending of Parasite mean?
To understand the ending of Parasite, you probably have to dissect the word "parasite," which means "An organism that lives in or on an organism of another species (its host) and benefits by deriving nutrients at the other's expense."
So let's get into the movie.
On the macro level, the Kim family has a parasitic relationship with the Parks. They feed off their wealth, and it sustains them. But before you go demonizing the Kims,m think about the Parks. Their wealth and stature allowed them to feed off poor people, like the Kims. And like the servants they had before the Kims as well.
Still, it's undeniable that those suffering here are lower class.
Bong Joon-ho shows that the lower classes are willing to kill one another over the limited space serving the top. When realistically, they outnumber their oppressors and could easily have all teamed up to kill the Park family and lived comfortably in the home together.
When asked by Slashfilm if he has an interpretation of the ending, he says:
"That’s quite difficult to say, but I have my own thoughts on the ending. I’m always curious myself as I write a script whether it’s about the characters or the situations or the ending. I have several interpretations for the ending myself, but with this ending I just wanted to be honest. I didn’t want to create false hope and pretend to be hopeful. It’s sad but I wanted to show reality in a raw and unfiltered way."
Another theme on display in the movie is a prison and being a prisoner. We see it literally at the ending in the basement, but also, the Kims are prisoners to the idea and pursuit of wealth. They seem like a family that loves one another and takes care of each other, but their commitment to wealth makes them leave a peaceful and safe life and enter this life of danger.
A life that separates them from the ones they love.
Parasite is a layered film with many interpretations. What do you think the title and ending mean?
How do you think they echo throughout the film?
Let us know in the comments!
What's next? Check out the montage from Parasite!
Here's how Parasite director Bong Joon-Ho gets sixty shots in five minutes for one of the best sequences in movie history.
Click for more.