When Aristotle wrote Poetics, he wouldn’t have predicted how dramatic narrative will shift in his homeland of what we now know as Greece. After the umpteenth New Waves that had been on the tide for centuries, the current wave, especially in the film narrative dubbed as Greek Weird Wave, has moved to somewhat blend the mythical trait from the oral narrative era with bizarre drama and black comedy as shown in the work of Yorgos Lanthimos, Panos Koutras, Athina Rachel Tsangari, and recently in Babis Makridis’ Pity. The directorial debut of Christos Nikou, frequent collaborator of Lanthimos, titled Apples adds to the very same long list with a peculiar story about a lonely man living in a pandemic world. Only the melancholy that looms can compensate the sheer bizarreness that the story exudes.
In Apples, a mysterious pandemic sweeps the whole world and causes sudden, mass amnesia in a randomized transmission. The story sets in an unknown period of history, where most technologies are analogue but people behaves as if it’s in the present time. Aris (portrayed by Aris Servetalis) is a midlife man caught in the outbreaks, losing his memories and struggling to even recognize himself. Enrolling in an experimental recovery program, Aris finds himself entirely forgotten; nobody who remembers claims him. In no time, he’s hopeless that the whole world might sooner or later get swooped away by the pandemic and enter a clean slate era. To move the story forward and add complexities in the process, the analogue world maybe the most crucial creative decision. If only the world is digital and internet-heavy while people are as tech-savvy as they are in the present days, rediscovering one’s lost self might not be as dire task as Apples would suggest. Imagine Facebook invites us to walk down the memory lane every single day; the complexity wouldn’t be as intriguing as what Nikou and co-writer, Stavros Raptis, have in store.
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In its crucial moments, the whole state of the world Apples takes place in is almost utterly ridiculous. It’s like a self-referential joke with the truth as the punch line; but, the people living in such a world take everything seriously, just like in Lanthimos’ The Lobster. As Nikou suggests, by the end of the pandemic era, the world will come out a different one that he cleverly exaggerates with the clean-slate condition. There’s no explanation of how the whole issue originates or how the world will end up to be; but, Nikou has a positive approach to resolve the conflict that somehow describes the ideal world the writer-director dreams of at the end of this strange era. In doing so, the film invites the characters in a new identity program—a not so smooth allusion to the so-called New Normal—by making new memories and backstories as a foundation to come out a different person eventually.
Servetalis helps navigating audiences through the bizarre jungle of Apples with his sympathetic performance. While only hinted, it seems that his character has already lost—with loneliness and melancholia escort him on daily basis—before the pandemic strikes. The melancholy that has seemed to be an ally has guided him through the strange world. Together with Sofia Georgovassili whose vulnerability paints the screen black, the leads helps to stick around elusive imagery and absurdities that keep distracting the plot. After all, with everything the world has endured in the past few moments, Apples doesn’t seem estranged enough.