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Christos Nikou is clearly inspired by the deadpan absurdism of fellow Greeks Yorgos Lanthimos and Athina Rachel Tsangari.Mongrel Media

  • Apples
  • Directed by Christos Nikou
  • Written by Christos Nikou and Stavros Raptis
  • Starring Aris Servetalis, Sofia Georgovassili and Argyris Bakirtzis
  • Classification N/A; 91 minutes
  • Opens in select theatres July 8, including the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto

Critic’s pick

The movies were trying to warn us. In 2019, Brazil’s Iuli Gerbase filmed The Pink Cloud, a poetic drama about a world forced into social isolation after a mysterious, brightly coloured toxic mist envelopes the global atmosphere. That same year, Irish-American filmmaker Chad Hartigan shot Little Fish, about a virus that spreads instant memory loss, tearing families and loved ones apart. And around the same time, first-time Greek director Christos Nikou made Apples, which follows one man stumbling through the midst of a global pandemic (which also happens to cause permanent amnesia).

Viewing the films pre-2020 might have been a mildly haunting experience, but watching them today provides a thoroughly queasy experience in accidental prescience. But while Little Fish’s high concept masks minor-key character drama, and The Pink Cloud has its worst-case-scenario strengths, Apples is the most artistically ambitious and aesthetically fulfilling doom-prophesier of the bunch.

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The performance of Aris Servetalis grounds the antics with a poignant, empathetic sense of loss.Mongrel Media

The film opens on the everyday-but-not-really life of an unnamed man (Aris Servetalis) who lives in a world absent of any digital technology (there’s not a smartphone in sight) but where, quite recently, people develop a total memory wipe without warning. They get out of their own car, and become unable to drive. Or, in the case of our central character, they fall asleep on a bus one evening and wake up unaware of who they are, where they were going, or really anything. Without any identification on his person, nor family members to claim him, the man is sent by public-health officials to live a new life in an anonymous apartment block, where he can hopefully regain some sense of his past self. The one thing the man recalls? His taste for the titular fruit.

Clearly inspired by the deadpan absurdism of fellow Greeks Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth, The Lobster) and Athina Rachel Tsangari (Alps, Chevalier), Nikou builds his terrifying reality with a meticulous sense of confidence, letting the quotidian tip into the surreal ever so gradually until we simply accept the upside-down-ness of it all.

Still, the end result might have been all too controlled, too gratingly measured, were it not for the casting of Servetalis, whose performance grounds the antics with a poignant, empathetic sense of loss. The actor simply has a face built for shouldering all of the world’s many questions and anxieties – we’re able to invest ourselves in Nikou’s world because we can so easily see ourselves in Servetalis’s character. Lost, confused and hungering for just a brief bite of sweetness in a reality gone sour.

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