Apples unravels gradually, revealing subliminal clues and implications, as opposed to showering us with exposition. Its cold, muted colors complement the dreary atmosphere, splendidly counterbalanced by frequent displays of deadpan humor, such as an amnesiac Batman being escorted from a costume party (“Anyone know Batman?” the ambulance worker shouts), or Aris referring to mustard as “yellow sauce.” “Have you ever had such a delicious apple?” a grocery store clerk asks Aris after the latter’s bitten into the crunchy fruit. “Never,” he replies, 100% serious.
Aris Servetalis is excellent as the introverted, slightly off protagonist, whose expressive eyes do most of the talking. Talk about charisma – the actor holds our attention with the smallest of gestures, both keeping his distance and pulling us deep into his world. Aris does allow himself to let go at a club, dancing to Chubby Checker’s Let’s Twist Again in what may be one of the year’s most memorable scenes.
“…the dreary atmosphere, splendidly counterbalanced by frequent displays of deadpan humor…”
Nikou regards humanity with both warmth and disdain. The “reintroduction to life” process is crude and inhumane, designed to trigger our most basic human instincts, which eventually, allegedly, amount to a semblance of an identity. What’s left of the human soul when all memories evaporate? How willing are we to forget the painful moments in our lives? The filmmaker keenly examines the relationship between identity and memory (“It’s difficult to be alone without an identity,” a doctor tells Aris). Above all else, Apples is about perceiving taste, sight, emotion – everything – as if for the first time. It’s about relishing the taste of apples.
Comparisons to fellow Greek Weird Wave filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos are inevitable, yet Lanthimos’s sensibility is much more acerbic and relentless, while Nikou is warmer, gentler, more subdued. Apples can, at times, verge on being a bit too willfully abstract and patience-testing, but that won’t take away from your enjoyment of taking a bite. Oh, and get yourself some Granny Smiths. Apparently, they’re good for the memory.
Apples screened at the 2020 AFI Fest.
"…regards humanity with both warmth and disdain."