The day after I saw one of my favorite films in competition in the World Cinema Dramatic category– the Greek dark comedy, Pity– I saw the film’s director casually having a late breakfast at The Bridge Cafe in Park City.
The moment I recognized it was him was a euphoric one for many reasons– here was the man whose work I had become infatuated with a mere 24 hours earlier and considered one of the bests from the fest. Plus, it reminded me just how lucky the independent film community is to have a festival like Sundance, where creative energy bounces around Park City from artist to art lover, and audiences are introduced to films that otherwise may not end up on their radar. Pity is one of those films that I am so grateful to have seen in this environment.
Pity is Babis Makridis’ sophomore directorial feature film that tells the deliciously off-kilter story of a man who becomes dependent on the pity of strangers to give his life meaning. Actor Yannis Drakopoulos plays the unnamed man whose situation looks grim– his wife is in a coma and, with no apparent domestic skills of his own, has come to depend on his neighbor’s daily bundt cakes to feed himself and his son. It becomes apparent, however, that the food isn’t the only thing satiating his appetite, his neighbor’s constant care and concern also feeds his growing ego and desire for sadness. The man picks up his dry cleaning and tells the employee all about his life’s misfortune, and leaves with freshly pressed suits and a bountiful supply of sympathy. It isn’t until his wife begins to recover that the man realizes that he depends on the pity from strangers to continue living and will stop at nothing to ensure he receives it.
The situations are hilarious and horrifying all at once, the winning combination that makes every moment feel like a metaphorical punch in the gut… exactly the way our protagonist would like it.
This is not a case of schadenfreude– happiness at the misfortune of others– but a case of twisted and psychological self-sabotage. The man is only happy when he is sad, he is quite literally addicted to sadness, and that is what makes this Greek tragicomedy, whose tagline is “Stay Sad,” one of the most creative and smart films to hit the arthouse/dark comedy scene. Perhaps the best part of all is the understated execution of this wacky plot, which is attributed to Drakopoulos’ deadpan performance and beautiful cinematography. Makridis and his DP Konstantinos Koukoulios create a visually stunning and engaging aesthetic that grounds this black comedy in reality, making the character’s situation all the funnier because of its realness.
Makridis’ directorial accomplishments may not run long just yet, but he is no stranger to the film industry– just ask his Pity collaborator and co-writer Efthimis Filippou whose credits include The Killing of a Sacred Deer, The Lobster, and Dogtooth (all directed by the great Yorgos Lanthimos). If you’ve seen any of the previously mentioned films, expect that same tone (and soundtrack) to come across in Pity. The situations are hilarious and horrifying all at once, the winning combination that makes every moment feel like a metaphorical punch in the gut… exactly the way our protagonist would like it.
97 minutes. ‘Pity’ is not yet rated.