This arresting image makes the film seem more interesting
than it actually is
dir: Christos Nikou
This. Is a Greek film. About a guy. And he really likes apples.
That’s about it. There’s not a lot of subtext going on. Just really likes apples.
Doesn’t, like, love them to the exclusion of everything else. But he does seem to enjoy eating them more than he seems to enjoy eating anything else.
He doesn’t spend the entire film eating apples. That would be absurd, even for an odd Greek film.
But the film is called Apples. So you could be forgiven for thinking the apples are somehow important.
There is a guy here (Aris Servetalis), but I don’t think we find out his name? I don’t think he knows his name, or at least that’s what he tells the people that find him on the bus.
There appears to be, for a film made during the goddamn pandemic, or just before the pandemic, an epidemic, not of people coughing themselves to death with the spicy cough, but an epidemic of sudden onset amnesia. One moment people know who they are and where, and the next they seem to have forgotten everything from before a specific moment in time.
Our sullen guy here is taken to a hospital, and tested and looked after for a while, but there’s no treatment and no cure. People are basically warehoused at the hospital until someone comes to claim them, like they’re lost property. If no one comes, well, they have a program for that.
Our sullen bearded guy is set up in a modest apartment, has some clothes given to him, and a polaroid camera, and money occasionally and physical cassette tapes regularly are delivered to him for his listening pleasure. Of the few things he has, he also has a tape player. How delightfully retro!
He has to listen to the tapes, go out into the world and do what the tapes said to do, and take a polaroid as proof. That polaroid is put into a photo album, and perused by the doctors who seem to break into the apartment whenever they feel like it, admiring their handiwork.
The first task involves going out and asking to borrow someone’s bike, pop a wheelie or two, and then have a photo taken of you on the bike. The guy asks a teenager for his bike, and of course the jerk says no. So he asks an even younger kid, so that he can ride around on an absurdly little bike like he’s Krusty the Clown.
But he gets the photo. The taskings from the cassettes get more complicated, more involved, and start to include other people more. Go to a fancy dress party they said. Go to a strip club, they said. It’ll be fun, they said.
The idea behind it…is an elusive one. There’s no thought of prompting or provoking people’s old memories – the idea seems to be that if these blank slate people do all these taskings and take photos, they will replace the absence in their memories with a new, constructed set of experiences, which will be an adequate alternative, and they won’t miss their old lives too much.
No one seems too put out by it. No one rages against the system, or rails against the unfairness of it all. No one smashes anything or sets fire to anything, which is a bit unusual for a film set in Greece.
They just seem, at most, to be mildly put out by it all.
As we find out, though, there’s a whole bunch of other people following the same program, at the same or different stages. When our guy goes to a revival screening of The Chainsaw Massacre (pointedly, the film’s poster clearly points out in English that it’s not the Texas one) on a specific Saturday, other people as well are going through the motions and having their polaroid taken with the poster, to prove they were there for their own photo albums, presumably.
He meets one woman who’s also receiving the tapes, though she seems to be, within a couple of days, a few stages ahead of him. He helps her out with some of her tasks, and even, without knowing it, fulfils one of the more difficult requirements of her tasks after a night out dancing and drinking. So even with the chance of connecting with another person, is he questioning whether he’s just a tool towards someone else’s achievements, or is it a true opportunity?
But there is something that we’ve worked out that other people around Our Guy haven’t figured out yet, that we figure out (it’s never articulated) pretty early on. And it changes little, because this is an odd, low key film (it’s not quirky, it’s not weird for the sake of being weird or funny), about people reconnecting with life or with other people in the face of what, exactly? In the face of isolation, of loneliness, of grief, of lockdowns, of loss. Maybe it’s a flick about depression, and finding a way back, or maybe it is just a flick about apples, and how, when you like apples, finding a really good, crisp one, is better than almost anything else you could ever do.
I would not say that I loved this flick but I did admire it. I admire the commitment of the main actor in giving a performance that’s incredibly low key but not so subdued that it’s obvious “work”.
What I mean is, he’s not sighing all the time or trying to eye-fuck everyone with his emotions, so it’s no Casey Affleck in Manchester-By-the-Sea or anything. It’s also not a film with deliberately awkward or flat performances like that of other prominent Greek directors of the last decade or so, at least internationally, being Yiorgos Lanthimos, or Athina Rachel Tsingari. It’s naturalistic, but let’s be honest, still kind of odd. Them bloody Greeks…
There are times when I’m in the mood for a flick like this, and times when I’m not, so it’s lucky for me that I was in the right headspace for something like this. Apples won’t change your mind about anything, but if you came across it on SBS or World Movies, it could agreeably kill an hour and a half.
6 times everyone resists the impulse to scream “How do you like them apples?” out of 10
“Guys, does anyone know who Batman is?” – well, that’s a complicated question and you won’t like the answer - Apples