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.