Firmly in the tradition of the “Greek Weird Wave” that most viewers associate with the films of Yorgos Lanthimos, “Apples” is a deadpan dramedy with an eerily familiar dystopian premise.
Amnesia spreads like a sickness, striking at random and forcing the unluckiest individuals to complete in a bizarre program that equips patients with a new identity. Such is the case with Aris (Aris Servetalis), a middle-aged, droopy-eyed wretch who, one afternoon, literally takes a bus ride to nowhere. By the time he reaches the end of the line, he has no idea who he is.
Written and directed by Christos Nikou, “Apples” follows Aris on the ostensible road to recovery, drifting through a depopulated Athens where the stilted, phantom-like people that do enter the frame beg the (existential) question: are these the infected? Or is everyone, in their own way, just as lost?
Initially, watching Aris commit to the training program has its charms. Every day, he listens to cassette tapes that instruct him to create specific memories — riding a bike, getting a lap dance, attending a costume party. But our hero, a kind of mute and wide-eyed space alien, makes these totally ordinary activities feel absurd. That the program obliges him to take a Polaroid each time he completes a task adds to the gloomy, if chuckle-inducing, artificiality.
These listless proceedings are shaken up when Aris meets Anna (Sofia Georgovasili), a chirpy fellow amnesiac. Anna’s intentions are fittingly obscure, but the development of an actual, recognizably human relationship between the two gives the film a pulse where there was once only blank-faced dark comedy. Still, the movie never manages to hit above a dim emotional pitch, and a final-act awakening lands with a shrug. You can rest assured, at least, that Aris does eventually stir out of his zombified state — and that apples actually do play a starring role.