While some people might be craving a return to “normal life” with a potential end to the COVID-19 pandemic visible, other people might question what “normal life” is. Coronavirus is likely to change some of our daily habits, like our cleanliness. However, most of us are unlikely to change how we use technology because it has not been directly affected. Nevertheless, because of the harm social media can cause, which is part of our so-called “normal life”, it may be seen as an epidemic itself, and indeed the lasting consequences of this pandemic and social media’s role in it are troubling. This pandemic has also raised further awareness of mental health, with many people struggling to cope with isolation and loneliness. These are ideas Christos Nikou explores in his debut feature, Apples. Having served as an assistant director under Yorgos Lanthinmos for Dogtooth, Nikou’s film has a similarly unusual and disturbing tone that Lanthimos often demonstrates in his work.
The ‘pandemic’ in Apples is not a physical disease but a mental deficit, with some citizens of Athens having amnesia. Aris (Aris Servetalis) is one of those people that has no memory of who he is. As he is unable to verify his identity, doctors enrol him into a new identity development program. As part of this initiative, Aris has a Polaroid camera and tape recorder, which he frequently receives tapes for instructing him on what to do. It is possibly the most perturbing aspect of Apples with Aris’s actions dictated for him; it displays how his new identity is formed by another source rather than by his own free will. With the camera, Aris has to take photos of all his actions to evidence that he has done them. Even if the technology is primitive, Aris’s use of it resembles how many people today use their mobile phones to document things they do. It is comparable to how some of us have become conditioned to record our lives on social media rather than taking the time to experience that moment in our life.
Many films use colour to manipulate the audiences’ emotions, and the colour scheme in Apples is one of the film’s strengths. There is a subtle but distinctly frequent use of blue and orange that heighten the mood in particular scenes. By contrast, in one moment, the use of stark red neon lighting is so prominent that it’s clear it’s enforcing the feeling of contrived passion. It makes the audience believe that colour influences our feelings. The audience questions whether we fabricate emotions from our memory based on what we know of feelings like love and grief, or do they arise genuinely. These themes are very abstract, and as Apples does not explore them and offer definitive insight, it is likely to leave some audiences bewildered.
Admirers of the so-called Greek Weird Wave will probably enjoy Apples more than most audiences. However, whether you’re a fan of the movement or not, it’s perhaps important not to over-analyse, like Lanthimos once advised regarding his work, but rather appreciate Nikou’s effort for what it is.