The story starts in a semi-basement. Four beings searching for free wifi, and the laughs when they finally get it in the top right corner of the kitchen. And in that laugh, Parasite, in its first-ever scene showed us how the class divide is all about finding what the upper class takes for granted. The story rolls out very swiftly from then, but always with a ‘Plan‘.
Maybe Bong Joon-ho was not sure that his mass would get the definite class divide if he doesn’t show the stark opposite of families in the same place, almost a walk’s distance. So, he chose a mansion, with lavish glass doors that open to a carefully kept huge lawn, a staircase from the garage with sensor overhead lights, a living-room spread large couch and three well-bred dogs (with different brands of dog-food for each).
The first part of the story is so humor-infused that you might mistake it for a commercial movie. From the son and the father practicing their dialogues in the room to tell the rich wife the next day with losing their tone of emotion here and there, to the teenager’s jealousy of suspecting her tutor having a crush on the woman he brought home who happens to be the tutor’s sister in the story.
As the laughs in the theatre get harder and natural, there comes a doorbell. And from there, the story changes to a grim thriller, but with the sole molecule of the class, divide injected in every line of it. As the ex-housekeeper’s husband in the basement bleeds while switching on the stairway lights which the house owners mistook for having a sensor, right there it portrays without a word the purpose of the film. And from there, it goes all topsy-turvy. The rains, to the rich couple making out on the couch with the other family hiding right under their living-room table still, with their moans in the background. And there, like a creeping sense that builds up, Parasite tells us how privacy can be the biggest luxury and something you buy only with money.
The last bit of the film is a thriller in all its cinematography, the basement lighting, the dim buzz of anticipation, blood-smeared floors and chaos. As the rich have their meat-ramen in peace on the ground floor, the basement is a battlefield.
The film ends with a magic-realism of sorts with the father sending a letter to his son in Morse codes, every night. Finally, when the son decodes, he writes a reply and the scene goes on to the poor son buying the same mansion where the father has been staying, eating the food which he steals from upstairs “while carrying his life with himself every time he goes up”. And when the father comes out of the basement and hugs the son in the same glass window that opens to the lawn, for once you don’t believe the film. Because the sense of class divide is that deep-rooted. Then the scene closes with the son finishing writing the letter, and the theatre gives out a sigh. Because at least one film didn’t end class divide with magic realism, it kept it true to reality.
The other couple plays a silent role, only highlighting the family’s unity so much more. When the father asks the ex-housekeeper’s husband how come he doesn’t have a plan to take over the riches, he shows him the books, the condoms, the bed all scattered in the basement where he has been staying for years now. And for once, I knew why the makers named it ‘Parasite’.
There is so much brilliance scattered here and there that you scatter your words and can’t find them when the film ends.
But what most struck me is how rain played such an important role. While one family lost its home in the semi-basement to flood, the other family’s wife had the luxury to put her feet up on the car seat the next day and tell over the phone, “Just a bright day with no pollution. Thank God for last night’s rain“.
Like every form of art, Parasite also has its own glitches. But then, what’s art if it doesn’t have the audacity to make mistakes?
This film doesn’t make you elated, sad or excited when it ends. It stays, gets you thinking and breaks your heart in crumbs to think it’s true. The girl climbing to the commode to stop it from spewing out sewage and dragging out a cigarette from the roof while the basement-dwelling neighborhood struggles, was a breather. So was the family laughing out to their inside jokes while having whiskey in the mansion’s living room overlooking the rain on the lawn.
And like Bong Joon-ho said, when you finally overcome the one-inch barrier of subtitles, this film hits you with a tinge of guilt. The tinge keeps getting bigger with every moment till it starts residing in your skin – eating from you, staying with you, trying to overcome you.
Tapatrisha Das is a journalist and creative writer. She writes on movies and arts.