If you like dark humor, then this movie will be one of your all-time favorites. It has been critically acclaimed for its story, direction, acting, social commentary, cinematography, and editing.
In this post, we’ll dig a little deeper into this South Korean masterpiece and present you with the ultimate list of facts about Gisaenchung (Parasite).
1. The director became famous with a crime drama
The director of Gisaengchung (which we call “Parasite,” the English translation of the title), Bong Joon Ho, became famous when he created another masterpiece back in 2003.
“Memories of Murder” is a crime drama based on a true story about the first-ever serial killer in South Korea named Lee Choon-Jae (of who the identity was not known yet at the time the movie was made).
His talent for storytelling and editing was already apparent in this movie who was shot over 15 years before Parasite was released.
2. Parasite covers a deep social theme
The story revolves around the division between the rich and the poor. A poor family tries to infiltrate into the lives of a rich family, and somehow leech off them by all means necessary.
Director Bong Joon Ho stated that this isn’t just a Korean movie but a movie that would apply in just about any country in the world. This is something viewers at the Cannes movie festival from multiple countries clearly agreed with as well.
3. The idea for the movie came 5 years before it was shot
Bong Joon Ho came up with the core idea of the movie, which is to have a poor family become a parasite in a rich family’s house when he was making his first-ever English spoken movie “Snowpiercer” in 2013.
One of the most interesting facts about Gisaengchung is that the director himself once was a tutor in a rich family’s house in his early 20’s. This made it easy for him to find an angle for the poor family to become the parasites initially.
He referred to this by saying that he felt that this was the only way two families on the opposite end of the financial ladder could convincingly meet each other.
4. The title of the movie has a double meaning
When Bong Joon Ho came up with the idea of the movie, he actually conceived the story around what would become the title: “Parasite.”
When he started developing the characters further as they interacted with each other, he found out that the title actually has a double meaning.
He refers to this by saying that “it’s easy to think of the poor family as being the parasites, but this actually refers to the rich family as well. While the poor family is trying to get money from the rich family, the wealthy are exchanging their money for cheap labor.”
This is clearly reflected when “the rich family can’t even wash dishes, they cant drive their own car, so they become a parasite to the poor when they require them to do the cheap labor.”
5. The house wasn’t actually a real house
Most of the story unfolds in the rich family’s enormous villa. In the story, this villa is built by a fictional architect named Namgoong.
The remarkable fact about the house in the movie is that it wasn’t actually a house, but a movie set that was built from scratch.
The movie’s production designer Lee Ha Jun actually made a drawing about how he wanted the house to look like and they started building the set based on his sketches.
6. The furniture in the house was really expensive
The furniture used in the house wasn’t just for show, it was actually really expensive! Here’s an overview of what’s inside:
- The table, constructed of cherry wood, cost $19,800.
- The dining table is valued at $22,300.
- The chairs cost $2,100 each.
- The brass lamp costs $14,000.
- A piece of art title “Maya 2078” by Seung Mo Park costs $120,000.
- Another piece of art with cats cost $50,000.
No wonder that the crew found themselves shouting “Be Careful with that” frequently, right?
7. A real architect wasn’t impressed with the initial sketches
This wasn’t a real house, and according to a real South Korean architect, no architect in the world would build a house this way.
His exact words were: “No idiot would build houses this way. This is ridiculous.”
Then again, the director is only thinking about blocking lines and camera angles for shooting each scene, not about people actually living in the house as an architect would.
8. Bong Joon Ho made his co-writer suffer
When Bong Joon Ho wrote the first 15 pages of the script after finishing his Snowpiercer movie, he went on to work on another project, Okja, for Netflix.
He felt he was onto something special and handed over the script to his production assistant on Snowpiercer, Han Jin Won.
Bong simply asked him to do an “easy job” and do some research on a script he has been working on in his spare time after finishing Snowpiercer. “It wouldn’t take more than an hour or so a day,” Han Jin Won naively thought.
He stated that “he was fooled in a good way because he found himself working on it every single moment that he wasn’t sleeping!”
Because of his hard work, he was officially credited as the co-writer of the script.
9. Alfred Hitchcock references are made
Bong Joon Ho is a big Alfred Hitchcock fan, and he uses several references to his work in Gisaengchung.
There’s a theme of voyeurism as 14 scenes revolve around people watching others from a window and there’s a crucial role for the staircase.
The most obvious reference is the Alfred Hitchcock collection in the rich family’s home.
10. It didn’t intend to make fun of North Korea
Even though there are several references such as the rich family having a bunker and poking fun at North Korea’s nuclear program, and when the housekeeper impersonates North Korean state TV anchors with her husband, the movie didn’t intentionally make fun of North Korea.
Bong Hoon Jo describes this as “a small joke” and actually believes that “North Koreans would think it’s funny as well if they would get to see it.”
11. The beef dish actually has another name
When things start to look awkward for the poor family as they are occupying the house of the Park’s, they quickly need to prepare a meal called “Ram-Don.”
The name of this meal was actually invented by American subtitle translator Darcy Paquet, A Korean-based movie critic who collaborated with the producers on Parasite.
he came up with it by putting together the names of both ingredients, Ramen (the noodles) and Udon (the beef).
The real dish is called “Jalpaiguri” so we can understand why this name was changed to make it easier to understand for a foreign audience.
Another interesting fact about this meal is that “udon” is actually one of the most expensive meats in the world, yet the dish is a meal that’s quickly put together. This again shows the social commentary of how the rich prepare what is considered to be a cheap meal by most Koreans.
12. It’s the highest-grossing South Korean movie ever
Parasite has been an international success, that’s putting it euphemistically. It’s the highest-grossing South Korean movie ever made as it has grossed $266 million worldwide.
What makes this achievement even more remarkable is that the budget of the movie was just $11 million.
13. The movie was shot in just 77 days
Yes, that’s just over 2 and a half months. Not a record but still pretty fast considering the runtime of 132 minutes.
The script of the movie took much longer to write as it was written in 4 and a half months.
14. Gisaengchung won 4 Academy Awards and more
At the 92nd Academy Awards that were held on February 8, 2020, Gisaengchung (parasite) won a total of 4 Academy Awards.
- Best picture
- Best director
- Best original screenplay
- Best international feature film
It was the first time a South Korean film has won an Academy Award and the first time a film not in English has won the Best Picture award as well.
Apart from winning 4 Academy Awards, it also went on to win multiple other awards such as:
- The Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film
- The BAFTA Award for Best Film Not in the English Language.
- The Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.
- The Palme d’Or at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival.
It’s fair to conclude that the movie has been received well by just about all international movie critics.
15. Bong Joon Ho remains dedicated and humble
Winning 4 Academy Awards is a big deal. It’s only the third time that a movie has won the Palme d’Or and the Academy Award for Best Picture in the same year, and the first time a single person has won 4 Oscars since Walt Disney (who did so with 4 different movies).
Bong Joon Ho, even though extremely excited about his success, remained humble and dedicated to his job as always.
he was asked whether he thought this was his best film or not, he shrugged and simply said: “My next movie will be the best…I hope.“
16. This man could use some lessons in humility
The fact that a South Korean movie won the Academy Award for Best Picture wasn’t to the liking of the “leader of the free world.”
In one of his rallies, Donald Trump made some pretty astonishing comments (or are we already used to this right now?) when he was openly wondering why a movie from South Korea could win the award.
“Aren’t there any good American movies anymore, like Gone with the wind or Sunset Boulevard?”
The main character in “Gone with the wind” was actually a cotton plantation owner during the American civil war who owned a lot of slaves.
We’ll just end this by saying: “Congratulations Bong Joon Ho, your movie was thoroughly entertaining, funny, gripping, and thought-provoking at the same time!”