From the first image of socks on a clothesline to a similar closing shot, Parasite is all about life coming full circle, in unforeseen ways, for the hard-up Kim family. In between, a lot happens: seemingly, a movement towards progress and amelioration but more a slide for the worse. Bong Joon-ho’s much-celebrated film on the Kim family’s infiltration into the wealthy Park household, hits like a bolt out of the blue, whether it’s your first viewing or the tenth. You may know of and can anticipate each step of the way — every new turn and major twist of the plot. Yet that heart-in-the-mouth feeling doesn’t go away.
In fact, the more you see it, the more you are left in awe of Bong’s fluidity, in moving gradually but determinedly from a harmless, light-hearted and cheerful tone to an irredeemably nihilistic and horrific one. It’s such contrasts at every level, that can be subjects of in-depth research in their own right and lend the film a rare unpredictability. There’s the empathy and warmth you feel for a family of desperate con artistes and opportunistic wrong-doers as against the well meaning, seemingly nice, rather gullible and naive rich who don’t stir anything in your heart. Perhaps because, as the film tells you, they have no creases to them, money has ironed out the interesting imperfections. And then there is their incipient intolerance that shows up all of a sudden in all its ugliness — in the aversion for a certain kind of smell of the downtrodden and the dislike for cheap underwear. There’s more cruelty, perhaps, in the way they humiliate the poor, than the poor wreaking vengeance on them.
- Director: Bong Joon-ho
- Starring: Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam
- Storyline: Posing as qualified professionals, members of the poor Kim family infiltrate the wealthy Park household
- Run time: 2 hours 12 minutes
The vertical architecture, landscape and geography tells its own tale. The flight of stairs that separates the classes of the town from its masses, leading down from the row of fancy villas to the low life in semi-basements with their stink bugs and fumigation, bad Wi-Fi signal and passersby who urinate and puke. Or the bunkers, below the basement of rich homes where the poor lie like ghosts deprived of their rightful share of sunshine. Even while bringing the classes together momentarily in seeming consonance, Parasite reiterates the reality of the eventual conflict. A film that makes us aware of whatever privileges we may have and also acutely conscious of the class divides, that the inequities are not so easy to wish away. Far from hiding, the film’s beguiling charm stokes the deeply dystopian vision of its maker. In Bong’s world, despite tokens like a cell phone or pizza dinners, social mobility doesn’t quite exist. Poor is poor and rich is rich, and never the twain shall meet.