Babis Makridis’ Pity truly is as wonderfully uncomplicated as it sounds: an unnamed Greek lawyer (Yannis Drakopoulos) becomes so addicted to the feeling of being pitied that he will go to any lengths to make people feel sorry for him.
His own sorrow is genuine, at first, as his wife (Evi Saoulidou) lies comatose in a hospital and he is left looking after their teenage son. He appreciates that his neighbour brings him an orange cake at the same time every morning and that his local dry cleaner services his suits at a reduced price. He even succeeds in getting a very awkward hug from his secretary, despite how reluctant and uncomfortable she appears. He becomes so accustomed to receiving these pity gestures that he begins to consciously make his life as miserable as possible, forcing himself to cry and sabotaging the cheerier notes on his son’s piano, all in the name of prolonging his pity party. His new lifestyle is foiled when his wife miraculously wakes up, leaving him desperate to find new ways to get the pity he desires.
It plays out almost like a silent film, in parts, as black-and-white intertitles reveal the Lawyer’s inner thoughts, which often present a contrast to his deadpan expression. It’s fascinating that many sites classify Pity purely as a drama, seeing as there’s a lot of humour that emerges from its use of this kind of irony. Drakopoulos’ expression is so intense that he looks like a caricature drawing, but his acting is far from exaggerated. The ease with which he portrays the Lawyer’s idiosyncrasies makes for a performance that is mostly subtle and reserved but instantly watchable. Adding to the game of extremes is the operatic, triumphant score that booms through the speakers whenever the Lawyer gains something from being pitied, which, when fused with a shot of his stone-cold poker face, creates a hilarious juxtaposition.
The Lawyer’s environment is as expressionless as his face: minimalist décor dominates his house and office, as well as the hospital and several other locations. The perfectionism of the uncluttered sets, combined with the many symmetrical shots and their lack of depth, gives the impression of it being a long-lost, colour-deprived cousin of a Wes Anderson film.
Pity is one of those films that is brilliantly weird; its peculiarities serve and enrich the narrative rather than just being bizarre for the sake of it. It’s a creative and entertaining insight into the complexities of compassion and selfishness, with a twist ending that is disturbing but genius.
by Holly Weaver
Holly Weaver is currently studying French and Spanish at the University of Leeds, and has spent her year abroad studying film in Montréal. An old soul, she is enraptured by pre-1960s cinema and some of her favourite films include Singin’ in the Rain, City Lights and The Crime of Monsieur Lange. Her life ambition is to dress like Phillip “Duckie” Dale from Pretty in Pink, her one true style icon. You can find her tweeting and letterboxd’ing at @drivermiller.