You realise this art-house film will be a wicked black comedy, when at the very beginning the protagonist proclaims, "crying in movies is so fake... it's almost ridiculous when someone starts crying..."
While the film bookends with the sights and sound of a man, sitting on the corner of a bed weeping, the film is about an attention seeker who uses the ploy of drawing sympathy from onlookers.
Picture this. What happens when you see someone sad? Your heart goes out to console the person, but you can't do anything except sympathise with that person, simply because everyone's journey is their own. And at times, you do your best to draw that person out of his or her misery. But what happens if the person likes to stay in the rut?
Director Babis Makridis' "Pity" is one such portrayal of a loathsome pretender, a lawyer (Yannis Drakopoulos) who is addicted to sadness for he loves to bask in pitiable situations.
The narrative begins with the attorney's wife (Evi Saoulidou), who after an accident has been hospitalised and is lying in a coma. Her prospects of recovery are faint, at least that's how her soft-spined, drab husband prefers to see it and inadvertently invites others to do the same.
With a forlorn gloomy face, he blatantly wears his grief to attract kindness from strangers. But, when his life brightens up, how he lies, bullies and manipulates in order to "stay sad", to keep up that sweet flow of empathy from strangers, forms the crux of the tale.
Packed with leitmotifs right from him accepting freshly baked orange cake from his neighbour which he shares with his dog and son to his conversations with the owner of the local laundry, his father, his secretary and his friend at the beach, the film mines laughter from the awkward narcissism before making an abrupt diversion towards macabre sans any punchlines.
With its slow drooling pace, the narrative recalls the rhythm of a silent film where the plot is divided into chapters through aggressive use of intertitles. Initially what seems like poetry turns out to be the thoughts of the protagonist and thus every slate here is articulated to spare the audience the chore of mind-reading. This style of narrative works in art-house films but in general, one would find the tone, frustrating and tedious.
With a winningly odd deadpan performance, Yannis Drkopoulous is the lifeline of the film. He is extremely natural and mesmerising as the self-obsessed lawyer.
The others in the supporting cast -- Georgina Chryskioti as the neighbour, Panagiotis Tasoulis as his teenage son, Makis Papadimitriou as the proprietor of the laundry, Kostas Kotoulas as his father and Evdoxia Androulidaki as his secretary -- are all as compelling as him.
Visually, Konstantinos Koukoulios' cinematography, despite the old-fashioned - static camera compositions, his frames with a pastel colour palette are expressively aesthetic and charming.
Overall, the film is elegantly conceived and perversely fascinating that may appeal to only a few.
(Ratings: 2.5/5 Stars)