Apples

****

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Apples
"There’s sadness here for isolation and a grief that goes beyond the loss of a single life once lived. There’s also a heightened sense of the smaller absurdities of existence." | Photo: Bartosz Swiniarski

Greek director Christos Nikou worked as second assistant director on Yorgos Lanthimos' Dogtooth and, if his debut feature is anything to go by, he shares a cool sensibility with his compatriot, although this film has a stronger sense of underlying warmth for humanity. Set in what appears to be a present day not very different from our own, although considerably more analogue, this is a place where we learn there is a pandemic of memory loss. The film opens with a rhythmic thud accompanying the sort of still life beats from anyone's day... until we realise the thumping is not coming from a score but from Aris (Aris Servetalis), who is banging his head against a wall. It's an image that, while setting the mood, doesn't make a lot of sense in the moment but that comes to echo through a film that unfolds in deliberately elliptical fashion.

Later that day, we see Aris asleep on a bus. When he’s woken by the driver, he says he can’t remember where he was going, or even who his is so, with no ID on him, he is taken to a hospital where he joins many who have been similarly afflicted and who are told their memories will not come back. With nobody coming forward to identify him, he’s offered a place on a “New Identity” programme. Each participant is sent instructions on life experiences to acquire – from jumping off a high board at a swimming pool to going to a lap dancing club – and given an instamatic camera to immortalise the moment in a bid to both reintegrate them and imbue a new sense of self.

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There’s sadness here for isolation and a grief that goes beyond the loss of a single life once lived. There’s also a heightened sense of the smaller absurdities of existence. With each of many amnesiacs given identical instructions, Nikou is able to emphasise and explore the way society can be manipulated by ‘influencers’ into doing things that they have no basic desire to do. He also reminds us that while we may be drawn to many of our memories, there are others we wish we could push away. Aris, meanwhile, finds himself in a weird foreshadowing loop after befriending a woman (Sofia Georgovasili), who has also lost her memory and is creating the same new ones that he is, only a few days ahead of him, which only adds to the tragicomedy of the exercise.

Mystery surrounds Aris although he’s largely compliant with the programme. Perhaps it’s the way he suddenly starts singing Sealed With A Kiss or how he stops eating the apples he loves when being told a salient fact about them but like the too short trousers he wears after his memory loss, something just doesn’t quite fit.

Taking his lead from those Polaroid snapshots, Nikou, who co-wrote the screenplay with Stavros Raptis, boxes off the film in 4:3 ration adding to the sense of confinement. Like flipping through a photo album, we’re invited to fill in the action from the blank spaces we don’t see and, as the pieces fall into place, perhaps to watch the film again with the memory of what has gone before.

Reviewed on: 22 Feb 2021
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A man caught up in an amnesia pandemic tries to construct a new life for himself.


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