Writers: Christos Nikou and Stavros Raptis
Director: Christos Nikou
An epidemic of amnesia and the slow process of rehabilitation is the subject of Christos Nikou and Stavros Raptis’ charmingly quirky film Apples showing as part of the Glasgow Film Festival in which a man finds himself challenged by the everyday practicalities of identity and belonging. Beautifully shot by cinematographer Bartosz Swiniarski this sometimes poetic film is about emotional connectedness in a city of strangers.
Found disorientated on a bus, Aris is taken to a medical facility and waits for someone to claim him. With no papers or forms of identification, Aris is offered the chance to participate in the ‘New Identity Programme,’ a medical experiment in which he is given a home of his own and set a series of tasks over many months. When Aris meets fellow patient Anna by chance, will he ever find out who he really is?
Apples is a delightfully odd exploration of loneliness, isolation and memory as Aris undergoes an intriguing transformation programme that uses a series of taped messages giving him instructions on his next task should he choose to accept it. Far from Mission Impossible, Aris’ gentle nature and introversion ensures he complies and much of the film is structured around the completion of these seemingly innocuous challenges that range from riding a bike which the doctors presume is innate to befriending a local grocer and watching a horror movie at the cinema – the only stipulation is that he must record every accomplishment with a polaroid.
Leaning heavily on European stories and fascination with Kafkaesque clinical institutions and processes, Nikou and Raptis slowly up the ante, giving Aris increasingly bizarre, complex and even morally dubious tasks to complete which give him pause and add a small element of threat to the film. When he befriends a dying man or is told to have sex with a stranger in a club toilet, you begin to wonder just what credentials these medical professionals really have and why Aris is going along with it so blindly.
When he meets Anna the film shifts gear again, taking Aris a few steps ahead in the programme by helping her with tasks he eventually has to replicate on his own. The awkwardness between them offers a portrait of two single-minded people who want to progress without any distractions but soon become attached to one another almost without being aware of how much they need that contact with someone so like themselves.
As Aris, Aris Servetalis mutes his performance to create a continual sense of calm and quiet. In some ways Aris is a character who goes along unquestioningly with other people’s ideas but the sense of his character’s invisibility that Servetalis projects is very affecting. The film’s final scenes offer a new perspective but one that remains entirely believable in Servetalis’ engaging lead performance.
Supported by Sofia Georgovassili as the slightly more confident Anna as well as Anna Kalaitzidou and Kostas Laskos as the experimental doctors, Apples is as much a film about changing who you are as finding your identity. Nikou and Raptis’ idiosyncratic but kind film shows that you can never lose or hide the essence of yourself and whatever events are in store, you will come back to yourself eventually.
The Glasgow Film Festival runs here from 24 February until 7 March 2021