Apples Review

Amid a global pandemic that sparks sudden amnesia, Aris (Aris Servetalis) is enrolled in a recovery programme designed to give blank people new identities. Armed with a Polaroid camera, Aris is tasked with creating and documenting fresh memories, a project that becomes complicated when he meets fellow patient Anna (Sofia Georgovassili).

by Ian Freer |
Updated on

Apples starts as it means to go on. Close-ups of a banal house interior are cut to the beat of a dull, steady drumbeat. The noise, it turns out, is a man, Aris (Aris Servetalis), rhythmically banging his head on a door jamb, oblivious to any pain. It’s an oddball note that Christos Nikou’s film not only runs with but amplifies, delivering a deadpan but weirdly moving treatise on the relationship between memory, identity and grief. Nikou, an assistant director on Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight, is often bracketed with Yorgos Lanthimos as a leading light of the so-called ‘Greek Weird Wave’. Working with Emma Stone and Oscar nominations may be a long way off, but Apples is a bizarre, small-scale delight that delivers a texture and voice all of its own.

That _Apples_ ends up strangely moving is down to Nikou’s deft handling of tone and an engaging performance from Servetalis

Nikou’s film is Rod Serling meets Franz Kafka meets Charlie Kaufman. The world has been hit by a mysterious pandemic of irreversible amnesia. In Greece, the lucky few are found and reclaimed by family, the rest are either kept in hospital or put into the Disturbed Memory Department, which helps them build a new personality. Waking up on a night bus with no idea where or who he is, Aris is inducted into the recovery programme. Here he is given a new apartment and a set of daily tasks (that come from a C90 cassette — remember them?) that are designed to form his new personality and must be captured on an old-school Polaroid camera to form a photo album of new memories.

Initially Nikou plays these tasks as almost silent-movie skits, as Aris rides a bike, goes fishing and ‘enjoys’ a lap dance. Things get more complex when Aris meets fellow patient Anna (Sofia Georgovassili) at a horror-film screening (they both have their picture taken with the poster). Anna is at a different stage of her recovery, and what plays out is a tentative connection complicated by having to abide by the rules of their strange therapy. There are musical moments — as Aris starts to embrace the dance moves to ‘The Twist’ or remembers the words to ‘Sealed With A Kiss’ — that indicate Ari is perhaps engaging with his previous life. Yet a twist in the tale suggests something else.

Nikou sews in strange-sad, Kaufman-esque vignettes — Aris in his room in a fancy-dress astronaut’s costume or watching a pair of lovers on TV through a shop window — that marinade the high-concept idea in melancholy. The film is set in a timeless world where everyone still uses Polaroid cameras — the film is shot in a squared-
up 4:3 ratio that mimics the outdated technology — but also offers a sly commentary on social media as capturing the moment becomes more important than actually experiencing it. That Apples ends up strangely moving is down to Nikou’s deft handling of tone and an engaging performance from Servetalis, whose mono-expression makes Buster Keaton look like Jim Carrey.

Apples is an offbeat treat that manages to embrace ironic distance and emotional weight through a prism of perfectly judged absurdism. Look out for amnesiac Batman, too.
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