GFF 2021: Apples Review
We are introduced to the nameless protagonist of Apples [Mila], played by Aris Servetalis, in his apartment through a series of snapshots in his apartment... restlessly listening to the radio...staring impassively into space... banging his head against the doorframe before venturing out to buy the flowers himself much like the eponymous Mrs. Dalloway. Though there is no party in sight for Aris (or there would be if he could remember one) as he wanders aimlessly through the city. When the bus he's on reaches the end of the line and the driver wakes him, Aris doesn't recall where he should've alighted, his name or where he lives - his lack of identification only confirms it and he is packed off in an ambulance to the Disturbed Memory Department of the Neurological Hospital for evaluation.
From there, he is assigned a number (14842) and afforded a new life as an amnesiac. Something not as unusual as a strange epidemic sweeps a seemingly modern yet strangely analogue Athens with neither sight nor sound of a mobile device. All amnesiacs (at least those not claimed by family members) are given cassette tapes containing prompts of how to manage their "new beginnings" and polaroid cameras to snap proof of how they spent their days; photos stored in albums for posterity.
Christos Nikou served as Yorgos Lanthimos' AD on Dogtooth and it shows initially. His film - based on a screenplay co-written with Stavros Raptis - certainly has a place within the so-called Greek Weird Wave. In which filmmakers and writers such as the likes of Panos H. Kontras, Lanthimos, Athina Rachel Angari, and Efthymis Filippou have given us some brilliantly strange pieces of work that have painted unique, often ideological, versions of Greek society. Yet, while his predecessors gravitate towards the blacker, mordant aspects of life, Nikou's film has more emotional heft and poignancy.
Aris plays it deadpan throughout even when he meets fellow new beginner Anna (Sofia Georgovassili) and as he chomps his way through, roughly, an orchard. Servetalis is a combination of Daniel Day-Lewis and Buster Keaton, the line between bizarre and funny growing increasingly blurry as the film progresses, as to the linearity of the whole thing is anybody's guess. The 4:3 aspect ration harks back to the silent era and helps to further detach from reality - although the whole Athens-epidemic-as-narrative-device strikes close to home as we, like Aris, find a new weird normal.
The film is a very quiet and wry allegory with several laugh-out-loud moments, one involving a Batman. Its use of colour is gorgeous, the daylight palette consists of muddy blues, greys and muted greens while the nights tend to be oranges and ochres much like the innards of a mouldy apple. The use of music is astute with all feeding into the theme of memory and remembrance: "Scarborough Fair", "Seal It With A Kiss", and "Let's Twist Again" (although, this arguably has a dual meaning) - tenuous it may be but even "Ave Maria" mentions fruit!
Apples is a brilliant and absurdist rumination on loss, memory, identity and human connection. It ponders selective memory - the want to forget what's in the memory bank, the fight to remember by heart (is there a difference?) and what the hell did we do before camera phone and Instagram.
Apples is screening at the Glasgow Film Festival from 28 February - 3 March