KVIFF 2018 Review: Don’t Feel Sorry for Droll Greek Satire ‘Pity’
Take pity on the poor attorney played by Yannis Drakopoulos in the droll Greek satire Pity (Oitkos): his wife (Evi Saoulidou) is in a coma, he’s forced to take care of his teenage son (Panagiotis Tasoulis) all by himself, and he cries himself to sleep every night.
Or better yet, don’t take pity on him. Because that’s exactly what he wants.
That’s the surreal premise of Pity, directed by Babis Makridis (2012’s L) from a screenplay by Efthymis Filippou, who co-wrote Dogtooth, The Lobster, and The Killing of a Sacred Deer with Yorgos Lanthimos.
Pity is right in line with those features and others in what’s been termed the Greek Weird Wave, but despite the unusual point-of-view it’s more straightforward and wryly amusing than some of the films that have come before it. A shocking conclusion, however, underscores the true dark nature of the ideas contained in the script.
In early scenes of Pity, we too make feel sorry for Drakopoulos’ unnamed lawyer, seen bawling his eyes out by the side of the bed every night. Later on, he mentions how unnatural crying in movies always seems (amusingly referencing The Champ as one that gets it right) and we wonder about the authenticity what we previously saw.
The lawyer’s dry cleaner (Makis Papadimitriou) expresses concern for his wife’s condition, and even gets his clothes ready a day earlier due the unfortunate circumstances. A kindly neighbor (Georgina Chryskioti) brings him and his son an orange cake every morning.
That’s nice of them, we think. But it feeds into this unnatural, unseemly relationship that the lawyer wants to maintain with those around him - - at all costs. Drakopoulos’ attorney doesn’t just appreciate the small niceties offered by those that feel sorry for him, he takes perverse pleasure from their pity and needs the offerings as proof that his standing of sorrow is still good.
In other scenes, the lawyer consoles two of his clients whose elderly father has been brutally murdered. But through his over-the-top kind words, we imagine he must be absolutely seething inside: they’ve managed to one-up him in the pity game.
When situations change or people find new things to feel bad about, their thoughts and prayers move on to other subjects. The attorney can’t have that, of course, and the film’s startling climactic scenes, which includes one instance of real nastiness, show just how far he’s willing to go to keep the pity rolling in.
Only feeling happy when he’s feeling sad is a strange concept to get across, particularly when Drakopoulos doesn’t show even a hint of a smile throughout the entire film. But the more we watch him the further we get into his deranged psyche until it reaches a breaking point.
Meticulously crafted by both its writer and director, Pity is a surprisingly effective oddity that gets both funnier and sharper as it goes along. Gorgeous cinematography (by Konstantinos Koukoulios) on Greek beaches and seaside resorts is nicely juxtaposed against the underlying themes: how can anyone be so sad living in such a beautiful locale?
It’s also an unlikely crowdpleaser with numerous laugh-out-loud moments of deadpan humor: Pity received some of the lengthiest applause of any film I caught at this year’s Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.