Directed by: #ChristosNikou
After he awakes on a bus apparently unable to remember who or where he is, a man (Aris Servetalis) joins hundreds of other people who have suddenly and inexplicably been afflicted with amnesia. When no relatives appear to claim him, he joins the “New Identity” programme, an experimental treatment meant to help rehabilitate him. He dutifully starts this new life, but soon comes to question whether it is truly the best way forward.
Unable to be cured, patients are given a camera and an empty photo album and told to make new memories, guided by a series of tasks provided by their doctors. Some are rites of passage from their forgotten childhoods: riding a bike, jumping from the highest diving board. Others are more extreme, like crashing a car on purpose. Still others reveal the doctors’ views on what it means to live a ‘normal’ life. They must go to a party and flirt with someone, visit a strip club and get a private dance, and then have a one-night stand. It is a cold, calculated form of treatment, administered on the assumption that everyone is the same, and must experience everything the same way. When the protagonist asks how long he is expected to live a life so regimented, his doctors are unable to answer.
As such, his life is monotonous, simple and orderly, even with the variety of tasks. Bartosz Świniarski’s cinematography reflects this; it is crisp and brims with muted natural colours: greens and browns, greys and blues. Here and there are bursts of warmth, like the streetlamps which light the bus where the protagonist begins his new life, and a hospital room where a fellow amnesiac offers him an apple. This last, a small act of kindness, stays with him, perhaps some comfort in his confusion. In his new apartment, he immediately empties the fruit bowl of oranges and refills it with fresh apples. He also moves the bed, a little rebellion in a uniform life.
Servetalis’ performance in the lead role is fascinating. He is haunted and distant. The film opens with him banging his head on the wall and then dissociating in his apartment. He appears visibly uncomfortable when confronted with any kind of adult experience, and even baulks at the swimming pool, wobbling away from the edge of the diving board and opting for a shorter drop. He seems unsure of everything, as if he is learning all over again that society is built for people who know how to interact with others, how to have small talk, how to flirt. Another patient (Sofia Georgovassili) asks him to help with her tasks, and there is an awkward innocence to their interactions, and in his confusion as to why she wants to spend time with him at all.
There is joy here, too, most of which comes from the old life he shouldn’t remember. He sings along with the radio. An old neighbour’s dog bounds up to him at the park. When ‘Let’s Twist Again’ comes on at a bar, he does, in the middle of the dance floor, alone and uninhibited. He finds escape in childish things, like dressing up as an astronaut and pretending he’s on the moon. He seems by turns naïve and weary, exhausted with lives both new and old, with having to rebuild and remember.
Apples is a strange and wonderful film about a man trying to adjust to a life not built for him, a life he should not have to live.
Apples will be available exclusively on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday 7th May.