Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Apples – peeling back the skin on a tale of absurd amnesia (QFT until 30 May)

A bearded man carrying flowers is woken up when his bus reaches the end of the line. He can’t remember where he was going, or who he is, and is carrying no identification. And so he is labelled as another sufferer of a never explained pandemic of amnesia, and is carted off to an overloaded health facility which quickly farms patient 14842 back out into the community with a rather Heath Robinson set of activities designed to integrate the “unclaimed patients” back into society.

A story of isolation, identity and new starts seems remarkably appropriate for a first trip back to the cinema after a five-and-a-half-month absence. And great to sit down towards the back of the warm and familiar Screen 2 of Queen’s Film Theatre. Nearly thirty years ago, it was the venue for second year CSC206 Parallel Programming lectures from Prof Ron Perrott, studying a new programming language every two weeks. Nowadays it is a home for international cinema, with subtitles overcoming any residual language problems.

Shot in 4:3, Apple’s unusual aspect ratio emphasises the height of some locations while the lack of width suggests the claustrophobic feeling of being trapped in a world and a life that has removed identity, agency and impetus.

Director Christos Kikou peels back the skin of the tale to uncover health professionals who exude uncaring attitudes, and use fairly facile steps in a “New Identity” programme that often exploit both the patient and those they are asked to engage with in the world around them.

While tiny details come back to the patient (played by Aris Servetalis), no one is listening as regular check-ups have been replaced with a cursory examination of an album of Polaroid photos proving that he has completed his mailed out tasks. The fancy dress party is surreal; the car task darkly funny. Apple’s cityscape is from a time before smartphones and Instagram. Yet the taking of analogue selfies speaks loudly into today’s world.

Servetalis portrays a sombre character that engages with his new normal with a quiet forbearance and occasional frustration while munching on his favourite fruit. His encounters with a fellow amnesiac (played by Sofia Georgovassili) are believably tentative as they cagily figure out the new rules of their existence.

Come on let's twist again / Like we did last summer! … / Do you remember when …

A pivotal disco scene provides a glimpse of what this man might once have been like. Yet dressed at one point as a spaceman, we sense his deep solitude.

At times poignant, at times darkly funny, it’s a film that provokes thoughts and demands an internal monologue inside your head the whole way through its 90-minute runtime. It speaks about our treatment of people with dementia, as well as how health professionals cope in crisis situations, and how we adapt to unusual situations.

Apples is a great gentle reintroduction to the world of post-lockdown trips to the cinema and is being screened at Queen’s Film Theatre until 30 May 2021.

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If you enjoyed the review, feel free to buy me a coffee tea!

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