Directors continue to critique capitalism’s parasitic and famishing impacts


NEON + CJ Entertainment

Danielle Epel

As politics continue to unveil the frigid lack of class mobility in several capitalist countries, art also continues to mimic life. Many films from the past century have fostered the momentum of political climates and their impact on various aspects of society. In the past two years, two major films thematically encompassed some of the political and societal issues people must battle in the present day: Parasite and The Platform. Both movies capture the harsh realities of present-day economic systems and how their foundations do not serve all who reside within a society, which can therefore turn people against one another.

The Platform, directed by Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia, depicts life within a structure — referred to as the hole — which is compiled of various levels with a gap at the center. Two people reside on each given level. As each day goes by, a platform is lowered with food to travel from the top level to the very bottom one, where eventually nothing but bones and empty platters remain as food is taken from the platform by each level’s residents. The characters have one month on a given level until they randomly move to another; at times people can be at the highest and revel in food or starve when faced with the lower levels of the structure.

The Platform tackles the idea of necessities being distributed to society from top to bottom. It may seem obvious that the solution could involve the characters acting rationally and dividing the food between everyone within the hole, considering that many have experienced the barren lower levels and know the struggles there, but this doesn’t happen.

This platform, however, symbolically demonstrates the access to opportunities for the various classes in the social hierarchy and how each level interacts with those below. Gaztelu-Urrutia enhances the tensions seen within society through the concept of having to remain in one location, one system. The reality is that those who are currently on the highest levels could end up below the people they disregarded on the lowest levels just a month prior. The structure pits people against one another instead of concocting a rational community.

What the movie’s viewers should consider is whether those at the top should try to provide for all the people below them. Greed and selfishness is fostered by a society that curates entitlement for those who reach the top, and this society could be too blind to make an ethical choice. Should society be built on the desire to reach a higher class ranking, even if it means neglecting the realities of those with fewer opportunities?

Capitalism defends The Platform’s system and always leads people to believe that they do not have to consider those below since every class has its own dilemmas. Rigid class division will keep existing when all systems thrive off simply maintaining it. Thus, capitalism played a major role in the inspiration behind The Platform’s class disparity and its lack of humanity and community growth, just as it does in reality. People become engulfed by the illusion of how far they can climb financially and seek to constantly improve themselves without the consideration of how the entire system could be corrupt. The system is like a never-ending hole — how fitting.

The 2019 Academy Award best picture winner, Parasite, also grapples class disparity through the perspective of two families living in South Korea. Directed by Bong Joon-ho, the movie juxtaposes the lives of a prosperous and carefree family with another that lives in the slums and struggles to make ends meet. Seeing as the father of the wealthy family runs his own company, his family members revel in economic prosperity through their opulent habits, a luxurious home and priorities based on privilege. The poorer family couldn’t dream of providing its kids with an upper education, let alone make it through each month while working laborious jobs. Therefore, the poorer family strived to find a way around its circumstances and work for the wealthy family, which intertwines these two families’ completely opposite lives. This brings about the question of why the answer to economic disparity comes from working for the rich.

When looking at the respective fathers, they lead their families in completely different ways. One father runs a business and is just interested in how his money is being spent to provide his kids with art education and private tutoring, while the other is jarred by planning the different ways his family can cut corners to live in stability and move out of the slums. The father of the lower-class family is not lesser than the prosperous one, yet he is faced with internalizing what makes him different from an opulent family man. Another functionality of class disparity is the layer of esteem that people seek to achieve through the ability of what they can provide for their families. All burdened fathers know too well about such circumstances.

Parasite portrays a system that allows people to be driven mad by the things they do not have but that others seem to obtain effortlessly. Some look up to the rich and the jobs they provide while others seek the means that can get them to wealth. At the end of the day, achieving class mobility overcomes humanity and morals. When opportunity seems to never favor those of the lower class, the capitalist system beckons the notions of being self-made and achieving prosperity by any unique means. Those at the bottom acknowledge that the capitalist system does not serve them and therefore, they must serve themselves. The character development of the members of each family exposes how far people will go after the illusion of prosperity and how low people will sink to neglect the reality of lower-class residents.

This is the modern world. Those at the top can grow indifferent while those at the bottom continue scratching away at the walls that hold them back. We tend to become slaves to a system, rather than stay loyal to our morals.