by Kaleem Aftab
- VENICE 2020: The Orizzonti section has a high standard to maintain as it opens with Christos Nikou’s delightful, deadpan debut
Apples have had an important part to play in the human story. They have a major religious significance, being the forbidden fruit in the Adam and Eve Genesis story. In science, it was an apple that fell on Isaac Newton's head and led to the theory of gravity. In Greek mythology, it was the gifting of a golden apple that led to the start of the Trojan War. And on the stock exchange, Apple recently became the first company to be worth $2 trillion for making computers which house so many of our memories. Now we can add another winning tale to this fruity list: Christos Nikou's tasty debut film, Apples [+see also:
interview: Christos Nikou
film profile], which is opening Orizzonti at the 2020 Venice Film Festival.
Apples can also improve your memory. So, when a bizarre worldwide pandemic causes people to lose their memory spontaneously, Aris (Aris Servetalis, excellent) is told to eat more apples and to perform tasks prescribed on cassette tapes so he can create new memories and document them on camera. He goes to a costume party where the guests pay homage to movies ranging from 2001: A Space Odyssey to The Karate Kid. It's that kind of film where highbrow and lowbrow delightfully dance together. It is also a mix of the weird and the familiar.
However, love is an emotion that is hard to forget, and Aris sees old behaviours and feelings return when he meets fellow recovery patient Anna (Sofia Georgovasili) in the best scene at a cinema since True Romance. Of course, they watch the perfect first-date movie: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
Apples is a pretty unforgettable debut and must already be a frontrunner to win Orizzonti, even if the ending makes the quirky flavour veer into something a bit more bittersweet.
Nikou was assistant director on Dogtooth [+see also:
interview: Yorgos Lanthimos
film profile], and the influence of Yorgos Lanthimos is writ large in the way that the movie creates a world that feels familiar, yet is just quirky enough to be fantastical. The brilliant sets look like Edward Hopper has painted them. It's also a timeless world, where everything the characters use is analogue, but somehow it still feels futuristic in that kitschy, 1960s fashion. Adding to the feeling that this comes from a bygone era is the decision to shoot the picture in 4:3 ratio. It's a sensibility and aesthetic that are reminiscent of the worlds created by Charlie Kaufman, Michel Gondry or Spike Jonze, and yes, this debut film does deserve such high praise.
Another similarity between Nikou and Lanthimos is that Apples has a storyline that places heavy emphasis on the psychological makeup of humans, and which seems hell-bent on highlighting what strange beasts homo sapiens are. But – and this will please many audiences around the world – Nikou's characters have a bit more heart than those found in Lanthimos land, and the humour is more “funny ha ha” than sarcastic. Apples thus announces Nikou as the latest in a growing line of excellent contemporary Greek filmmakers making movies that stir brains and melt hearts.
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