Apples makes clear that, even in 2021, the Greek Weird Wave continues to roll. A retro-scifi story of a world afflicted by an illness that robs people of their memories, it stars Aris Servetalis as Aris (handy), a man who leaves his home one day and then, suddenly, is sitting on the bus unable to answer basic questions like “where are you going?” or “what is your name?”
The prognosis appears to be bad. In this world, once the memory has gone it can’t come back. And so Aris winds up in a medical program designed to give him new memories. He’s given a place to live and is asked to follow a strict regime of tasks – he goes to a fancy dress party as a spaceman, to a cinema to watch a horror movie, and so on – obeying instructions issued via cassette tape and taking a Polaroid of himself each time to prove he was there. Milling about at these events are other people with his affliction, also taking Polaroids and working through the same list.
Aris likes apples. Is that a memory? One of his doctors, looking over his apartment while Aris is out and tucking into some soup Aris has made, declares approvingly that Aris can obviously cook. Is that a memory? Or a kind of muscle memory, like the apples? Later, at a dance, Aris seems to be able to do the Twist. That, surely, is a memory?
One thing films in the Greek Weird Wave – going back as far as Dogtooth (2009) and Attenberg (2010) – have in common is the almost documentary-like tendency to present the world of human interaction shorn of the meanings bring to it as participants (Attenberg is named after the British wildlife documentarian David Attenborough). GWW films are cool to the point of chilliness, devoid of emotion, matter of fact. And as last year’s remarkable Not to Be Unpleasant, But We Need to Have a Serious Talk demonstrate, there’s plenty of powder left in the keg even after a good ten years.
As well as being something of a mystery – what’s with the program of new memory-building? what is the actual extent of Aris’s memory loss? what is memory anyway? – Apples adds a layer of apocalyptic sci-if, except that the film takes place in what looks like the 1970s. It seems odd that this isn’t done more often – much easier to delineate a world full of old tech than design an entire futureworld, surely? But with the exception of Aleksey German’s medieval sci-fi masterpiece How to Be a God, which is a fish of a very different colour, the apocalypse in movies generally arrives around about now or at some point not too far into the future.
Like many GWW films, the tone is deadpan throughout – comedy drama says the IMDB, though the comedy was lost on me – with Aris Servelatis giving a performance of Buster Keaton-like impassivity, his beard barely twitching as he visits one new “memory” event after another, even when he starts to form a relationship with another amnesia victim, albeit a rather minimalist one. Actually, there is one laugh-out-loud moment that arrives courtesy of this relationship – no spoilers.
Like other GWW films the colour palette is flat, the lighting also – this is again a Greece where the sun doesn’t shine, even though the orange trees growing on the city streets tell us that sun isn’t unknown in these parts.
And so, what’s it all about, where is it leading? Again, spoilers, though something happens about halfway through which changes the entire complexion of the film, and to an extent makes what follows slightly redundant. Our entire take on Aris has been altered. And possibly our understanding of what we’re watching. Is this a Greek Weird Wave film at all, or is Apples masquerading as one in order to blindside?
© Steve Morrissey 2021