February 17, 2020
As in Uncut Gems and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, a symbolic stone adds weight to Bong Joon-ho’s searing satire of Korean society
Built on rock: the geology at the heart of Oscars sensation Parasite
When Bong Joon-ho made movie history by winning a clutch of Oscars for Parasite, he held the statuettes together afterwards, making them kiss. There is something charming about Bong taking these longed-for, career-defining objects and bashing their golden heads together. We love our treasures – since antiquity people have carved and hoarded statuettes, stones, rocks, trinkets. This is a genealogy that runs from Stonehenge to today’s most Cartier-obsessed rapper. Parasite is unashamedly about wealth, class, longing, scamming: what we want and what we’ll do to get it. Incidentally, Elon Musk, the richest man on Earth, loved the film. I wonder who he rooted for in its frenetic final scenes – the closest thing I’ve seen to class warfare on screen.
At the heart of Bong’s taut tragi-comedy is a rock, a “viewing stone” a “symbolic gift” that drives his heroes, the Kim family, to inventive and deadly extremes in pursuit of more: more money, more opportunities, a better life. Geology – rocks, gems, stones – as a heavy-handed metaphor for wealth or class difference is common on screen. Uncut Gems opens with a scene featuring bleeding, injured mineworkers; in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, money-mad Lorelei risks her reputation by getting embroiled with diamond-mine owner “Piggy” Beekman.
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