Apples is a meditative film that deals with memory and grief. Selective, beautiful, and sharp are words that quickly come to mind. As a feature debut, it’s relentlessly good – writer and director Christos Nikou is a vivid talent. From the first few hauntingly mysterious minutes, the style of Apples is established. Its precision is to be in awe of, Polish cinematographer Bartosz Swiniarski frames some of the most gorgeous images of the year.
The Disturbed Memory Department is where we find Aris (Aris Servetalis), a patient who is among thousands of people affected by sudden amnesia. Aris begins to try patching his life together with the help of a recovery program in Greece. Cases begin to increase, more and more people start to lose themselves. Though due to the inexplicable pandemic at hand, lives are given a sudden reset.
Nikou’s razor-sharp tragicomedy is both haunting and strange, yet also a joy. Why does the word ‘joy’ come to mind? The mastery over visuals with his understanding of pure humanity makes for a joyous combination, such as this one specific moment where Chubby Checker’s ‘The Twist’ plays as Aris finally lets loose on a dance floor. Wondrously lit and framed, the dancing acts as a contrasting fleet of joy to the many prior somber images.
Aris Servetalis, who starred in two Yorgos Lanthimos features, Alps and Kinetta, is the perfect fit. A smooth transition, or perhaps nothing, is needed to settle into Aris’ reality and that is largely down to Servetalis’ performance. Tender, haunted, and largely glum, Servetalis brings such nuance to the character, one could not even imagine the best of actors doing such a great job. Aris is Aris and it’s all in the expressions.
Apples is a curious film, operating on a subconscious and nuanced level. The control by its writer-director is felt from the very first frame, it’s a masterfully crafted picture that is hitting screens at the perfect time. Additionally, the use of depth is remarkable. Depth as in the staging and framing of all images. The cinematography has more than a touch of Łukasz Żal and Jarin Blaschke. Notably, the 4:3 aspect ratio reminds of both Cold War and The Lighthouse, but also harking back to the silent era of the 1930’s. Playing seamlessly into the film’s deadpan-like nature, such as with line delivery, the visuals add an edge of the otherworldly – a slightly detached step away from reality. That edge is a large portion of Apples‘ beauty. Unique in its composition and style, it’s undoubtedly the element that grasps one’s attention instantly, never letting go.
Apples is not only one of the strongest debuts of the year, but strongest films period.