I have to admit, the first time I saw Apples, I did not think it worked for me. Many of the movie’s themes and concepts were something I could not fully grasp. It also put me off the first time because it felt like a part of the rash of pandemic-related movies that have came out, where people get affected by some ailment or the other. On that same note, I was glad I watched it a second time.
It was a heartbreaking movie about heartaches and the lengths we sometimes go to forget. To paraphrase from a recent interview of the director, Christos Nikou, “When all of those familiar markers of time and place are removed, you have to ask yourself, ‘Who am I? Who are we?’. ‘Am I a product of what I’ve remembered, or what I’ve forgotten?.” That sums up Apples, right from the horse’s mouth.
Apples start with Aris (Aris Servetalis) banging his head repeatedly on the wall. Various reports come on TV about the looming pandemic that has been causing a rise in amnesia cases in people. We never know why he is torturing himself, whether it’s a side effect of him having lost his memory or reacting to something else.
Soon, he is woken up on a bus by a fellow passenger with no memory of who he is or where he lives. As there is no memory and no record of his whereabouts, he is sent to a unique rehabilitation clinic where the doctors can study him further. They give him a list of tasks to help him trigger his memory or even create new ones which they instruct him to capture with a Polaroid camera and save in his album.
The tasks range from pretty simple tasks like riding a bicycle to some weird derivatives, like taking part in a protest with other patients but in cosplay, and things get rather bizarre from there. The gist of it is that the more task he does, and the more invested he becomes, it is apparent that he is becoming more uncomfortable. Perhaps recalling some pretty painful memories, he may want to forget.
Things also get more complicated when he bonds with a fellow patient Anna (Sofia Georgovassili). She is ahead of him in the order of the tasks and may or may not use him to complete her own list.
The most significant success of the film is the fact Aris Servetalis manages to sell the incredible premise of the film. It is hard to figure out whether he has lost his memory or if he has been playing along all along. Or if he gained back his lost memories throughout the movie.
That becomes more pronounced in the film’s best scene, where he breaks into an impromptu dance at a party after beginning the scene as a mute spectator. He looks like he was doing his best impression of the famous dance from Bande à part.
Sofia Georgovassili also stands tall against Aris’s powerhouse performance. The scene where she tells Aris the story of Titanic as if she is seeing it for the first time (which she is as an amnesiac) says a lot about rediscovering something like a long-lost friend or memory.
There are a few things that are hard to digest in the movie, though. Like the glacial pace tests your patience sometimes, despite the short running time. It is also hard to believe that there are no records of the lost amnesiacs anywhere where these guys have to start almost from scratch down pat with a new apartment and locality.
All these can be minor critiques as it is a movie that needs to be viewed, even multiple times, to get a hold of it to gratify you. Especially by the time the film climaxes and pulls the rug from underneath us.
Apples might be a complicated watch, but it plays out like a fairytale about wanting to start afresh, often at the expense of trying to forget all the wonderful memories of your life to erase a few bad ones.
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