Parasite took home the biggest prize at the 2020 Oscars.
For over 90 years, the Academy Awards have almost always followed the same formula in deciding their Best Picture winners.
But in 2020, however, something changed when the South Korean film Parasite, directed by Bong Joon-ho (Okja, Mother, Snowpiercer), upset all the odds and took home the most coveted award.
While other front-runners for the award, 1917 and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, relied on expertly crafted cinematography and a heavy dose of nostalgia, the eventual winner raised the bar to new heights as it was packed with layers of deeper meaning that the other films simply didn’t contain.
At the very centre of Parasite’s plot is the mysterious Scholar Stone but what exactly does this lump of rock mean?
The story of Parasite
Parasite tells the story of a South Korean family who are poorer than poor. The Kim family’s home is tiny, rancid and insect-ridden.
However, their luck quickly begins to turn when one of Ki-woo’s (the family’s son) friends offers him the chance to work as an English tutor for one of the city’s wealthiest families, the Parks.
One by one, each member of the Kim family manages to fraudulently find their way into a job for the Park family, becoming an art tutor, a chauffeur and a housekeeper.
But, when faced with a terrible choice, the wrong decision leaves them on a collision course back with their pauper’s reality.
The Scholar Stone in Parasite
Scholar Stones, known in Korea as Suseok, are commonplace across East Asia and are a frequently-used symbol of good fortune.
In Parasite, the Kim family are gifted a Scholar Stone by Ki-woo’s friend, Min, and it appears at first that the stone does bring them the good luck that they’ve been missing.
However, an abuse of that good fortune brings everything spiralling back down to Earth for the Kim family.
Meanings of the Scholar Stone
Parasite is a film that is jam-packed with symbolism and metaphors and there are none more central to the film’s plot than the Scholar Stone.
As soon as the stone arrives in their lives, the Kim family’s luck begins to turn for the better. But a selfish use of their newfound good fortune, throwing others under the bus as their circumstances improve, comes back to haunt the Kim family, almost like a wish from a cursed monkey paw.
Further meaning behind the stone emerges as the film goes on. At the height of the Kim family’s arc of success, just as everything goes pear-shaped, their home is ravaged by a flood, filling the house with sewage water. Each member of the family searches for their most prized possessions and Ki-woo is greeted by the sight of the Scholar Stone floating towards, suggesting that the mysterious rock is hollow.
At the start of the film, the stone appears to promise so much but the hollow promises of the stone only go so far and it delivers very little, even going as far as betraying the Kim family, almost resulting in the death of Ki-woo while helping to cause the death his sister, Ki-jeong.
The promise of the Scholar Stone to bring wealth and good fortune to the Kim family is linked strongly to the belief that wealth also brings with it happiness but as we see when the Kim family are left alone in the lavish surroundings of the Parks’ house, their faux lives quickly unravel back to where we joined them at the start, leaving them with nothing.
Parasite is currently available to watch in cinemas after getting an extended-release following its Best Picture win.