Written for RAF News March 2021
Aris (Aris Servetalis) rides the bus to its final destination having forgotten his stop, along with his name, and so is carted off to hospital with the many others being diagnosed with sudden amnesia.
Set in a skewered version of Athens, this world has a playfully surrealist touch, and so when no-one comes to collect Aris, he begins an odd process that will somehow make him a productive member of society. The ‘New Identity Program’ provides patients with a place to live, where they will regularly be set objectives that need to be completed and documented with Polaroid pictures. These recreational tasks are bizarre in their specificity, from riding a bike and catching a perch to getting a lap-dance or having a one-night stand. Drifting further away from reality, Apples is able to humorously deconstruct everyday life and relationships through its circus-mirror reflection.
The vacant determination of Aris as he completes increasingly peculiar tasks is strangely funny, and though it becomes more familiar over the course of the film, it is never predictable and so there is always an uneasy tension behind the laugh. It takes an M Night Shamalan concept and plants it in the Yorgos Lanthimos universe (somewhere between The Happening and The Lobster), creating a high concept black comedy, mired in tragedy and trauma. It feels like it was written by AI imagining what it means to be human, to experience lust, empathy or even grief.
Made prior to 2020, Apples has a prophetic resonance: a pandemic forcing many people to live the same lives – proving their existence by taking photos of their activities. The absurdity of the situations draw attention away from the seriousness, though it can be called into play in an instant. In fact, the final act creates real pathos in having Aris interact with terminally ill patients of a hospital, having his humanity remain intact as though it were a universal condition that cannot be forgotten.
If you can adjust to its tone, Apples manages to be both poignant, and gleefully ridiculous.