Any director lucky enough or prescient enough to be working on a movie about global pandemics just as one spread in the real world is probably going to have an automatic in this year, as we are greedy to see our own lives reflected in film, for both the drama and fear instilled by a rapidly spreading virus, and the stillness and isolation as the world shut down in response. These are strange times.
But not all pandemics are created equal. The one writer- (along with Stavros Raptis) director Christos Nikou imagines causes sudden amnesia. After a blinding pain in the head, the victim finds him- or herself void of memory. When Aris, a middle-aged man, wakes to the bus driver shaking him, his wallet is as empty as his head. Transported to hospital by ambulance, he can’t answer any questions, and after a few days on the ward, he is still unclaimed by friend or family. He’s not the only one. In response, a rehab program attempts to fill the void, a recovery method designed to help unclaimed patients build new identities and lives. Living in a sparse apartment and armed with a polaroid camera, he is given daily tasks on a cassette, meant to be performed and captured on film. It’s a strange life, and a lonely one, until he meets a woman on the same path (Sofia Georgovasili).
The treatment is unexpected, jarring, and increasingly bizarre. Just like Nikou’s film. As a feature film debut, it’s bold, and immediately establishes itself as a smoldering new entry among the Greek New Wave of weird cinema. And isn’t it glorious.
More than just memory, Apples is a meditation on nostalgia, reality, grief, and existential reminiscence. But between Nikou and the Disturbed Memory Department of the Neurological Hospital, what Apples really touches deep within its worldwide audience is our collective identity crisis. Sure it’s surreal and inevitably absurdist, but through its analog attempt at rediscovering personality, it’s a subtle condemnation of the hollowness and inauthenticity of the digital age, and it gives us all the space and permission to grieve.