Apples – Film Review
by Hugh Maguire
Director: Christos Nikou
Writers: Christos Nikou, Stavros Raptis
Stars: Aris Servetalis, Sofia Georgovassili, Anna Kalaitzidou
From the outset Apples is strangely hypnotic and in its own distinctive way compulsive viewing. A pandemic of sorts is afflicting Greece and leading to sporadic and irrevocable memory loss across the population. A highly-placed, somewhat unsympathetic, medical team is encouraging victims to generate a new body of memories and to regain some form of normalcy. Set in an indeterminate period – but one where tape recorders, along with black-and-white televisions still exist, the film has the brooding aesthetic of all those Nordic crime dramas with which we have become familiar. Certain shots recall the pared-back aesthetic of the Dane, Vihelm Hammershøi (1864-1916). So we can expect tones of grey and brown as opposed to the sun-kissed Greece of Mama Mia! This palette range matches the sombre mood and subject matter. But the soulful intensity of the main protagonist, played by award-winning Aris Servetalis, has us hooked throughout. Helpless, or so it seems, he calmly accepts his lot in life and manages to win our sympathy and concern completely.
Much has been made of the timely nature of the film and the impact of a pandemic, but this may be to underestimate what is actually portrayed. No amount of mask-wearing, social distancing and hand washing can control the illness afflicting these people. Young and good looking as they are we may bemoan their fate. The cruelty of it all! But perhaps what we are seeing is a different sort of pandemic, the still rampaging pandemic of Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia. What is it like to live in a world with no memories? What do we remember and what do we forget? Is the afflicted person just a victim and can they have a new quality of life? New arrangements and new facilities may ensure some sort of quality and dignity as happens here. And even where there is memory loss some things may remain, some deep sense of self, leading to a form of quiet contentment and a sense of belonging. While we are concerned for the hero we do not have to burden him with our own sorrows and instead treat him with the dignity he deserves. So there is hope and in the quiet gestures of eating apples a reassurance that all is right with the world, simple needs and simple pleasures prevailing in the face of surrounding turmoil. It’s something we can all relate to at the moment.