Apples is a song that begins with the word "apple" meaning to continue. Close-ups of the house's interior are cut off to the beat of a sluggish continuous drumbeat. The sound, it turns out, is the sound of a man named Aris (Aris Servetalis) and he is banging his head against the jamb of a door, unaffected to any discomfort. This is an odd fact which Christos Nikou's film plays with, but increases, giving an unsettling, but deadpan essay on the connection between identity, memory and grief. Nikou is director assistant on Richard Linklater's Before Midnight, is often placed alongside Yorgos Lanthimos as the leading actor in the so-called Greek Strange Wave'. The collaboration alongside Emma Stone and Oscar nominations could be a long way away but Apples is an eerie small-scale, intimate delight that offers the sound and texture unique to itself.
The reason that Apples is a bit oddly moving is due to Nikou's shrewd control of tone, and an impressive performance from Servetalis
The film of Nikou has been described as Rod Serling meets Franz Kafka meets Charlie Kaufman. The world is currently being hit by a mysterious epidemic of irreparable amnesia. In Greece only the lucky ones are identified and then reclaimed by family members, others are placed in a hospital or in the Disturbed Memory Department, which aids them in developing their own identity. When he wakes up on a bus at night with no clue as to where or what he's doing, Aris is inducted into the recovery program. In the program, he gets the chance to move into a new home and is given the daily chores (that are derived from an old C90 cassette Remember you have them?) designed to shape his new persona and have to be recorded using an old-fashioned Polaroid camera to create an album of photos that are filled with new memories.
In the beginning, Nikou performs these roles as a sort of silent-movie skit in which Aris rides a bicycle as well as fish and enjoys dancing in a lap. The plot gets more complicated when Aris encounters her fellow patients Anna (Sofia Georgovassili) in a horror film screening (they each have their photo taken using an image). Anna is in an unrelated stage in her recovery and what unfolds is a tentative relationship that gets made more complicated by the fact that they must abide to the guidelines of their bizarre therapy. There are moments of musicality -when Aris begins to dance in 'The Twist', or remembers the lyrics of "Sealed With A Kiss' — that suggest Ari might be interacting with his past. But the twist suggests something else.
Nikou sews strange scenes reminiscent of Kaufman such as Aris in his bedroom wearing an extravagant astronaut's costume, or watching a couple of couples on television through a window in a shop -and they smother the idea of a high-concept film in a sad way. The film takes place in a world that is timeless, that still relies on Polaroid cameras. The film is shot using the squared-up 4:3 format that evokes the old technology but it also offers a subtle observation on social media when taking pictures of the moment is more crucial than actually experiencing it. The fact that Apples is a bit spooky is due to Nikou's skillful use of tone as well as an engaging performance by Servetalis with a mono-smile that is what makes Buster Keaton look like Jim Carrey.