Not Rated. In Greek with subtitles. At Landmark Kendall Square.
From Christos Nikou, the assistant director of Yorgos Lanthimos’ “Dogtooth,” comes “Apples,” a modern fable about a plague of amnesia cases in an analog, perhaps alternate universe Athens. Our tall, bearded and no longer youthful protagonist (Aris Servetalis) bangs his head against a wall as we see still life photos in opening scenes. We hear Simon and Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair.” Remember me, indeed. He dresses in monochrome colors, buys flowers and takes a bus, but he forgets to get off and cannot recall his name at the end of the line. This is the beginning of an adventure for the man dubbed 14842.
We remember seeing him in his flat and petting a neighbor’s dog as he leaves the building. But all he knows is that no one has searched for him, yet, and he finds an apple the hospital has given him with his dinner “delicious.” Amnesia cases have increased. No one has recovered. Dressed in hospital blues, the man faces tests and injections. He is “unclaimed” and must learn how to live again.
This will involve living alone in a flat, accepting visits from hospital staff from the “Disturbed Memory Department” and following increasingly complicated instructions involving socializing efforts. His medical caretakers visit him regularly. He speaks with a produce dealer about different apples. He takes bites of the peeled apples he eats from the same hand holding the paring knife. He takes selfie-like Polaroid photos of himself, following the order he receives in the mail. He keeps a scrapbook. Our man spends a lot of time staring into the distance.
“Apples,” which was shot in a square aspect ratio, adding to the boxy, truncated sense, boils life down to its Kafkaesque essence, which suggests that our sense of identity is an apparition and perhaps even meaningless, that we are merely nameless entities going through motions without meaning.
In a park, the man encounters the neighbor’s dog again and calls it by name. Is he beginning to remember his life? Following orders to “get close to a woman’s body,” the man goes to a strip club, gets a brief lap dance and takes a photo of the dancer. He meets another woman (Sofia Georgovasili), notably, at a movie theater showing “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.” She can’t look at the screen. Afterwards, they chat and walk together. We want them to bond, if only to give us something more to look at, feel and think about. “Apples” can be bleak.
Not much happens in “Apples,” which was produced by Cate Blanchett, who obviously sees more in it than I do. The film is often like listening to a single note held for a very long time. In a sweet scene near the end, the protagonist feeds soup to an old man facing death in a hospital bed.
For reasons unexplained, the amnesia victims are not given new names, which is awkward and seems not very well thought out. The amnesiac world recalls our real-life pandemic and resonates in that way. But this gentle, metaphorical tale lacks solidity and threatens to lift off and float away.
(“Apples” contains profanity and scenes at a strip club.)