Synopsis: The story of a man who feels happy only when he is unhappy: addicted to sadness, with such need for pity, that he’s willing to do everything to evoke it from others. This is the life of a man in a world not cruel enough for him.
☆"And you know, crying is the most difficult thing to fake."☆
Weird Greek cinema has blossomed in the wake of Yorgos Lanthimos, or perhaps other filmmakers are just trying to keep up. But his idiosyncratic films have earned millions and fans, and it's only natural to see other dark humour and deadpan tragicomedy come from this Mediterranean country. Oiktos ["Pity"], by director Babis Makridis, fits in that mold.
This is the ninth film I'm watching as part of a little film club -- Josh, George, Mr_Macaroon, Brock, Zeke, and Stuart are just some in our private group, others not on LB but in another social media page we share -- and Pity may very well be the strangest of all. Here, Makridis teams with co-writer Efthymis Filippou (Oscar nominee with Lanthimos for The Lobster) to bring a razor sharp satire with some disturbing elements that make the audience work to engage with the narrative.
An unnamed man (played by Yannis Drakopoulos) is undergoing severe emotional suffering, largely due to his wife's (Evi Saoulidou) medical condition after a serious accident, for which she is hospitalized and comatose. He carries on through life as a lawyer in Greece, living with his teenage son (Panagiotis Tasoulis) and dog, accepting the pity and sadness of everyone who laments his situation. Some give small gifts of food, some express deep sympathy, some share in his grief and help him to pass the time. But the lawyer seems to revel in it, and seems almost to will others into feeling his pain, which ironically he only shows publicly with dry distant emotion. However, when circumstances unexpectedly change, his world is turned upside down.
Pity is an exercise in expectations. Would does the world expect in a grief-stricken husband and father? How much should he be consoled? Is there too much? Did you ever know somebody, the prototypical Debbie Downer, who does all he or she can to reduce every pleasant moment to one of misery and ennui? To a nearly ridiculous amount, the lawyer in this film is that character, urging others to empathize to the nth degree. But you surely wouldn't intrude on this man's suffering, right? If his wife and mother of his child lays practically lifeless, is he allowed to constantly beg for pity?
Director of photography Konstantinos Koukoulios uses status wide shots with a generally unmoving camera, lingering a moment or two longer than usual to heighten the awkward tension. Some extreme closeups are there only to show the protagonist (perhaps the antagonist to many) and his droll demeanor. Along with some impeccably times interludes of Beethoven and Mozart, and there's a darkly comic push and pull of emotion for the viewers as well.
Oddly, intertitles appear on screen, something of an inner monologue in diary form, ostensibly of the main character. I'd have been fine without them; they're almost too spot-on. I trust Makridis and his direction, he didn't need to spell it all out for me.
But Pity is a film that, if the first 45 minutes carried on any longer, may be exhausting. Instead, in its second half it becomes something much more engaging, and the dark humour which has bubbled underfoot begins to finally come to the surface in unexpected twists. What began as a difficult watch became quite entertaining, amidst the comically awkward tragedy that Drakopoulos feels the need to turn up to 11 at every moment.
Pleasantly surprised by this deconstruction of sentimentality, and willingness by Babis Makridis to push the envelope from cringe to pure madness. Be a little patient with this dark film, and you'll be rewarded with its final act.
Last Edit: Nov 30, 2019 11:14:39 GMT -5 by v9733xa
In all seriousness though, I did enjoy this after initially fearing I would hate it. It's funny how quickly that guy goes from being fairly uninteresting to 'is he still gonna try and pull this shit' over the course of 45 mins