Who among us has not suffered mal-effects of isolation and removal from normal public existence in the aftermath of a two-year pandemic shutdown? Episodes of confusion, mixing the days of the week, forgetting appointments, losing and misplacing objects. These obfuscations are happening way too often as we reconstitute our lives prior to COVID-19. The profundity and universality of this experience has stimulated a young Greek director Christos Nikou in conjuring his first feature film, APPLES.
“Apples,” which was Greece’s nominated film in the “Foreign” category of the Academy Awards, ruminates not only on memory loss; its auteur director takes it to the ‘nth’ degree; “Apples” is a cinematic exploration of the fearsome prospect of a full loss of identity. There’s the inkling that detaching from all this data may not be the worst way to live your life.
An Everyman named Aris (so named, perhaps, as a memory shortcut for actor Aris Servetalis) shows up slumped in his seat as the bus he rides reaches its terminus. He’s not hurt, but he’s as blank as a dead cellphone. There are a few bucks in his wallet, but no identifying documents. Who is this guy? Did he fall prey to a spreading trend in the movie of unmoored zombies walking the earth? Or was his identity loss willful? We follow the deadpan and affectless Aris in his quotidian existence, as he navigates a city (ostensibly Athens), bereft of the signposts that guide, drive, and define us on a daily basis: our names, addresses, family, friends.
The premise is simple, and the film’s tethering to an symbol as fundamental as an apple lends accessibility. “Apples” also takes on the epidemic of photography, using the ‘selfie,’ as a metaphor for existence. Like, if I didn’t take a picture of myself doing it, did I really do it? A remarkably handsome and artful film, if a tad abstruse, “Apples”‘s flaws arrive in some immature and improbable scenarios– for example, it added silliness when Aris dresses as an astronaut; another is a visit to a strip club for a lap dance, but that’s a set-up male filmmakers find utterly irresistible. But by and large, the film hews to message, and even spurred a few deep conversations after viewing. If only I could remember what we said!
Actress Cate Blanchett is a producer of “Apples,” which opens June 24 in select cinemas.
Dance critic Debra Levine is founder/editor/publisher of arts●meme.