Review: Pity (2018)

Pity (2018)

Directed by: Babis Makridis | 97 minutes | comedy, drama | Actors: Yannis Drakopoulos, Evi Saoulidou, Nota Tserniafski, Evdoxia Androulidaki, Georgina Chryskioti, Makis Papadimitriou

The stylized chill of ‘Pity’ is in no way reminiscent of warm-blooded Greeks. While this movie is made by Greeks with Greek actors and set in Greece. Business and modern interiors, you would rather call it German. OK then, ‘Pity’ is a Greek-Polish co-production. It certainly has a function. After all, sunshine and palm trees do not go hand in hand with joie de vivre, everyone knows that, especially the modern Greek. Not that ‘Pity’ is about the euro crisis, they have more to offer there. Greek dramas such as ‘Dogtooth’ and ‘Attenberg’ are sometimes playful mime, at other times stage heavy.

This film by Babis Makridis, a director of the Lanthimos generation, especially the latter. The unnamed protagonist is a lawyer and, according to the synopsis, “only happy when he is unhappy.” What we see is a kind of Mr. Bean without the humor. It grinds without lighting, and the chilly, sharp decor suggests Makridis wants to rub this in. Classical cantatas, that work.
Never mind, we are used to it. Greek absurdism is probably slow and sad as life itself. Sometimes we even think we are watching a slomo version of ‘Toren C’. But where is the catharsis? Katharsis is a solemn word for “a tub of Ben & Jerry’s after a long day at work,” and as you know, a movie critic calls a movie hard work when he’s bored.

Trigger of the plot is the comatose wife of the lawyer. Poignant is the scene in which the man looks at his wife seemingly emotionless through the window of the nursing room, while he is distracted by a crying young woman in the waiting room. Now we know: we’re supposed to feel pain and discomfort like the lawyer can’t express. In the next scene, the lawyer receives a housekeeper at his office, and seems to share his feelings with her, although it is only a practical conversation. Content strong, but not very encouraging. We can handle that too, but our question has still not been answered.

What this movie needs is emotions, slapping someone or a good fuck. Doing things together. After all, this is how men deal with feelings, whether or not they are soaked in alcohol. But Makridis sticks to his plan, with his clownish grieving protagonist whose card club just keeps going. Not enough we say, the blow must follow, right? “Crying is hard to fake,” the lawyer tells his card friends. He cries on the edge of his bed. Men never pretend to cry. Sometimes such texts appear on the screen. Simple translations of emotions, which are confused by the bareness of the setting. But that’s life sometimes. That continues, also in ‘Pity’. The blow will come, by the way, the catharsis will not; after all, pain is a state – not an event.

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