Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Nightmares, Parasites, and One of the Seven Deadly Sins

Is anyone else having nightmares? I am. And worst of all, I remember the damn things down to the last detail. That is the scary part. Usually, there is only the lingering terror and fear, with the particulars, hazy at best, which dissipates when confronted with the demands of unforgiving routine and the accelerated pace of the rat race we all willingly participate in. But this time around, I remember. And it gives me the creeps, what with all the distasteful unpleasantness oozing well into wakefulness and soaking into the rest of the day. But I am just going to put it down to a combination of the Corona scare (duh!) and the fact that I have been watching nothing but horror movies when time permits (double duh!). There, now that I have got it out of my system hopefully, I’ll dream about winning the coveted... Scratch that, hopefully it will just be dreamless slumber.

Speaking of horror, I watched the superb Parasite on Saturday night (I keep forgetting that Sundays are never as relaxing as they are supposed to be, especially during a global pandemic). I am truly glad to have resisted the temptation to read the glowing tributes to Bong Joon – ho’s Palme d’Or and Academy award winning masterpiece, because the film works best when you have no idea what to expect. One of those rare movies which fills you with equal parts exuberance and depression, it is a helluva ride. More importantly, it stays with you long after the credits have rolled, making you think and explore the strong feelings it has elicited.

Kim and his family of four are poverty – stricken and unemployed. They make their home in a squalid basement, which boasts a view of random drunken dudes who prefer to take a piss in public. This sorry lot steal Wi-Fi from a nearby shop, fold pizza boxes for a few bucks, and share a commode, placed in a discreet corner of their cramped quarters. Their fortunes change abruptly when Kim’s friend offers to recommend him as an English tutor, for a young girl, belonging to the privileged Park family. Soon Kim manages to trick the surprisingly na├»ve Parks into hiring his entire family. Things seem to be looking up for the unabashed cons who are very close to each other which is sweet given how cold – blooded they are, but naturally, in award – winning films you can count on it all to go to hell.

Kim’s student is attracted to him and he does nothing to discourage her. His sister ‘Jessica’ is not above playing on a mother’s anxiety over the fragile mental state of her son to make beaucoup bucks. Strangely enough, brother and sister seemed surprisingly groomed and well dressed for folks who live in a dump that is subject to being flooded with sewer water and exploding toilets every time it rains heavily. But that is a minor grouse. Their parents on the other hand are fittingly slovenly, suitably dissolute, and always have a plan usually ranging from the morally dubious, usually illegal to the ultimately unforgiveable. And yet, even when I disapproved of their actions, I kept hoping they would rise above their pitiable state.

It is surprising how entertaining this film about amoral characters who have no compunctions about grinding down those who are even less fortunate than they are, is. The final scenes unfurl in a flurry of mounting tension and violence as pent up frustration and bitter envy boil over in a cataclysmic climax. The damn thing has been haunting me for the past few days.

Messagey films with stirring social commentary seldom have this level of entertainment value. Society as we know it is built on the sweat, tears, blood and bones of the poor. And yet, no matter how bad your circumstances are, there is always the possibility of things taking a turn for the worse if you are not careful and fail to appreciate the things you do have by jeopardizing it all when you choose to make a risky play to better your lot in life, by sacrificing all moral scruples and more.
Parasite reeks of the simmering resentment of its protagonists towards their employers who are actually rather nice albeit cursed with a particularly low tolerance for rank bodily odours. The film does not blame the rich for their good fortune nor does it judge the poor who do whatever it takes to land a well-paying job only to risk losing it all for a chance to get drunk and play out a fantasy that can never be…

I have been brooding on envy ever since. It is not only the wretched who are afflicted with this particular emotion named among the seven deadly sins. Everybody wants what somebody else has. And though we are always taught the importance of being content and constantly warned about the ruinous nature of greed, we nevertheless tend to find satisfaction elusive as we take off in relentless pursuit of the non – existent pot of ‘everything we ever desired’ at the end of the rainbow, leaving everything else of value behind. I could go on in this vein, but I’ll desist and merely suggest that you watch Parasite at the first available opportunity.

In other news, my daughter was very pleased to hear all the favourable feedback for her poems. Thank you all for the kind words. For those who have been asking for more sublime verses penned by my firstborn, all I can say is that she has decided to take a break from literary pursuits and chosen to amuse herself by pranking us all during the lockdown, arguing with me about everything and nothing on principle and testing my patience to the limits. On the plus side, she helps me cook, clean and disposes off lizard carcasses with reluctant efficiency, so I’ll let the rest of it slide.

As for the nightmares, I think I’ll watch Bong Joon  - ho’s Host next. Or perhaps, I’ll binge – watch The Big – Bang Theory till the annoying laugh track is imprinted on my brain and tricks it into thinking that we are all in on the biggest joke in history and that persistent anxiety pertaining to illness and death is entirely unwarranted.   


Sriidhar Ravindhran said...

What a ride this movie was.. Very unexpected turn of events. The upper class and lower class privileges and how they show the above using rain as a substance where the rich enjoyed the rain and calls it a perfect weather for a barbecue and the poor in the down basement are flooded and lose their home. Each amd every detail in this movie is to be applauded. Initially I'd felt nothing great about it at watching it first but I should say it grew on me. Great write Anuja��

Anuja Chandramouli said...

It grew on me too... In fact, the film has haunted me for days now. Yeah, the rain scene and the sentiment behind it was so beautiful.

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