by George Wolf
Apples opens with the thump-thump-thump of Aris (Aris Servetalis) slowly and deliberately hitting his head against a wall. We won’t know why for about 90 minutes, as director/co-writer Christos Nikou reveals the layers of his debut feature as carefully as Aris peels his favorite fruit.
Later, on a city bus, a confused Aris becomes the latest victim of a worldwide pandemic that causes sudden amnesia. When his condition does not improve and no relatives can be located, Aris is enrolled as “14843” in a recovery program designed to help “unclaimed” patients build entirely new identities.
Armed with a Polaroid camera and a list of assignments from his doctors, Aris must document the completion of each directive with photos to be displayed on separate pages of an album.
Even if you didn’t know Nikou got his start as second unit director for Yorgos Lanthimos on Dogtooth, you would instantly notice the similarities in detached mood and deliberate pacing. And while it may be unfair to expect anyone to rival Lanthimos’s skill with deadpan irony, Nikou favors a dour, awkward brand of humor (Aris dances the twist!), and a more clear-eyed and gentle resolution to an opaque turn of events.
Nikou’s beautifully realized world resembles the present day, but it is consistently quiet, slow paced and free of digital tech (hence the Polaroid). The film’s comment on disassociation is a compelling surface layer, but Apples has a more haunting goal in mind.
How much of who we are do we owe to our memories? And how far might we be willing to go to put painful memories out of reach? Nikou’s approach to these questions is finely textured, displaying a blend of craftsmanship and vision that bears attention, both now and for whatever he takes a bite of next.