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When paradises on Earth become playgrounds for devils

Greek film Pity is about a monstrosity in the Mediterranean

Yannis Drakopoulos plays the anti-hero protagonist in Greek film Pity.
Yannis Drakopoulos plays the anti-hero in Pity.

Babis Makridis’ Pity starts with an establishing shot of a Greek city, most likely Athens. The spotless sunshine and unspoilt azure make it postcard-perfect, especially for a dream life after retirement. What could go wrong in this slice of heaven?

Yet, in the next scene, a middle-aged man (Yannis Drakopoulos) is crying his heart out on the side of his bed. His reasons for sorrow are perfectly valid, as they emerge a few moments later. His wife (Evi Saoulidou) is in a coma after a car accident, and her chances seem slim. Before we learn this, we see him in front of his door in the morning, waiting for someone. The bell rings, and it turns out to be a sweet neighbour who brings him a Bundt cake for sympathy.

It’s not only the dessert he’s eager for. He’s got a taste of the pathos behind it.

Like a tiger who slurps blood and can’t wait to sip more, our man, too, keeps prowling about for pity, wherever he can find it. And you know what happens when a tiger runs out of the meat they’ve been feasting on.

The lawyer fishing for sympathetic hugs from his secretary.

What’s as interesting as the film’s concept is its setting. A gangster city would have kept our lawyer friend—yep, that’s what he is—on his toes, even through the night. But then Greece boasts some envyingly low crime rates. The man’s handling only one case—a middle-aged brother-sister duo losing their dad to a killer with a yellow bike. No wonder our nameless protagonist leaves and reaches home on the dot.

A chock-a-block schedule could have impeded his tiger-like search for the titular reaction. The quest for sympathy is a normal human tendency, so the first half of the film feels relatable. But then how many times has our pity party lasted enough to reach extreme limits? Rarely. Because life happens. So does work.

“Very sad. A real tearjerker,” says our protagonist.

Amping up the lawyer’s sympathy-seeking behaviour to horrific extremes feels a bit too much. The tonal shift from comic to macabre, while terrifying, comes across as an exercise pandering to the festival circuit. (Plus, why use tear gas when you can chop onions to make yourself cry?)

But the what-if scenario seems strangely plausible with the mere choice of location. And thank heavens the disturbing climax wound up quickly to make way for a lighter but open ending. The last bit felt good—like karma catching up.

Pity makes the case for a better occupation of the mind, using a dark, twisted plot. Instead of #StaySad, the mantra should be to #StayBusy. Watch it if morbid comedies float your boat.

See the trailer here:

Watched Pity at a MAMI screening in 2018. The film is currently unavailable for streaming on any Indian platform.


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