Everyone is talking about Parasite, the first movie in a language other than English to win the Best Picture Oscar. The director Bong Joon-ho famously said that the Oscars weren't really an international film festival and so he didn't play much attention to it, though one imagines Bong Joon-ho did enjoy getting the Oscar. There is so much talk about it being a movie on class and the inherited inequities of wealth, the emphasis on the smell that class gets and how this smell is at once reviled and sexualized.
There are many ways to see this movie, and one of them is to see how romantic and familial love plays out at both ends of the economic spectrum. The climactic scene is especially brilliant in how the families are polarized in which child they take care of - one is fainted, and the other is bleeding to death. There is the expectation briefly that the bleeding child be left to die and everyone rally around the rich kid, but in the second that there is clarity among the confusion that this is a family, there is a surrender and the rich person just asks for the keys.
Parallely, the romantic interest cutting across the sections is doing its own thing, with the rich kid carrying the poor kid on their back and running to get attention. That poor kid survives and there is a bit of a narration of that life, though we are left to assume that the romance is washed away, given the rich kid is so young.
Looking at it, the movie seemed to ask: who would you save? Your familial love? Or, your romantic love?
An older dilemma that was often asked: imagine you are three of you in the house - you, one parent and one partner. One night, you wake up quite suddenly, smelling something off and you discover that your house is on fire. The parent and the partner are both passed out. You are strong but you can carry only one of them. Which one would you choose?
The dilemma posed usually leaves out a child because if it is parental love versus family or romantic, chances are there is totally no question - the young thing is what typically everyone would choose. We are just programmed to look to the future generations, to the potentiality of the young and would put their needs first. To suggest anything else would mark us out as some kind of a sociopath. But when we leave out kids and just keep the dillema to a parent versus a partner, it gets complicated, ethically confusing and puts the focus squarely on what matters to us most: family love, or romantic love?
Maybe the next Oscar winner is there in answering that dilemma!
As written for The New Indian Express
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