456

What was that line like? “The man is the head of the family and the woman is the neck, so she can turn him wherever she wants”. Well, nothing is more fitting especially when it comes to stubborn Mr Run.  The man in time has developed a very interesting strategy  – which I am often satisfied with, I have to say –  that is, whenever I propose something he is not pleased with, he offers something in return, he is sure I would not say no:

Mrs Tink: “What about going with Mario and his wife to their friend’s  restaurant Saturday night?”

Mr Run: “Saturday? Oh, I’d thought about spending the week-end in Florence!”

Of course, he knows how much I adore Florence, hence, in this way,  he is able to skip what he believes to be an unpleasant night for him.  But it’s not always so easy to find a comfortable way out. He had been trying for weeks to ignore my wish to watch “Squid Game” on Netflix,  forcing himself to enjoy romantic series set in the Victorian Period in exchange. He was even open to watch all the six seasons of Downton Abbey plus the movie again. Since I didn’t mean to wait that much, I decided to act as the “neck” this time using my wild card:

Mrs Tink: “But Love, even Baricco says it is a remarkable series”

Mr Run: “Baricco?”

Mrs Tink: “Indeed”

It wasn’t Baricco, actually, but Gianluca Vacchi, a well-known billionaire , who has become famous for his crazy dances on Tik-Tok  and with over  20 million followers on Instagram.20 million! What is  Baricco  compared to Gianluca Vacchi, he can’t even reach 30 thousand on Instagram !  So, it happened that one day I came across one of his videos, whose theme was one of the games of the show and I was absolutely impressed:

Mrs Tink : “10 minutes, only 10 minutes and if you don’t like it , we’ll switch to something else!”

Mr Run: “Only 10 minutes!”

Mrs Tink: “Ok. Ah, I forgot……………..it’s in Korean”

Mr Run: “Korean!!!”

After those 10 minutes we were totally hooked and I couldn’t imagine but watching it in any other language but Korean.  Squid Game is about 456 people who choose “freely” to participate in a series of competitive games in which the alternative to winning a prize pool of 45.6 billion is “elimination”.

The last to be recruited is Seong Gi-hun,  a lazy but well-meaning man who’s living on the back of his elderly mother’s meagre income. Because of his betting habit, he loses his family, constantly disappoints his young daughter and  is even  forced to sign a physical contract promising his organs in case of any more delays in payment by some debt collectors.

All the other 455 contenders share stories of failure, desperation , exploitation, loneliness and they believe the game to be their ultimate  chance  of social redemption. They are taken to a distant island  and secluded in  a sort of alienating labyrinth  which has clearly  the form of Esher’s staircase. The  players always proceed in line, like Dante’s defeated souls of the Purgatory.

They are under the control of  workers/soldiers  who are dressed in red and wear black masks with 3 signature symbols: circle, square and triangle.  A circle means a straight forward worker, who is at the lowest level of the hierarchy, those with a  triangle are soldiers with weapons, while a square refers to managers with the most power. The presence of such a strict hierarchy  and the  idea of  identifying the rank  and the task of the workers through a symbol seems to be borrowed  by Edwin A. Abbot ‘s “Flatland”, which was, actually, meant to be a satire against the oppressive hierarchy of Victorian England which reduced lower classes and women into submission.

In fact Squid Game’s target  is  clearly the capitalistic system and  its rules . The contests are nothing but metaphors of our competitive society, which is unpredictable, unfair and deceptive.  No game is ever explained to the competitors before they may choose the means (or companions) to play with and  first time the protagonists of  Squid Game choose to take part into the competition,  they do not know the consequences of the defeat.

But the second time, even though they are no longer unaware, they feel “forced”  to go back to play.  Why? Because the labyrinth  of  their life has just one way out possible: that game. This is how they feel. Despite the organizers  do not miss an opportunity to point out that the competitors have “freely and consciously” joined the competition, we know that  that freedom  is just illusory. In fact,  are  we really “free” to choose when we have to accept an underpaid  job,  or to end up into debt, because we made an investment without knowing the conditions and consequences?

The awareness that only one of them will be destined to grab that chance makes the game more violent and ruthless. The competitive and selfish side of human nature  takes over  any form of cooperation and compassion.  Men turn  into those Hobbes’s wolves who move circumspectly  according to the saying “mors tua vita mea“.

In this moral downfall,  there are beautiful lyrical  moments when those half buried sentiments of piety, compassion, friendship,  brotherhood and love  surface  intensely  in a last desperate fight between hope and disappointment. It will fall on  Seong Gi-hun  – our picaresque hero, whose number 456 symbolizes, according to numerology,  the need to take steps forward to reach a new level – the task to take us to the that level offering a sparkle of hope.  I can say no more, otherwise I would reveal too much; but it is truly a great product and it is worth watching it. If don’t trust me, trust picky Mr Run.

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