Though you’ve probably never heard of 37 year old director/writer, Christos Nikou, he has many famous fans, including Cate Blanchett. How does she like them Apples? She’s the film’s executive producer; it’s safe to assume she likes Nikou’s Greek-language debut a lot.
The central character, played by the superb Aris Servetalis, has the kind of beard and sorrowful gait that make you think “Jesus Christ!” In an Athens at once pre-digital and modern (check out the man-buns), a pandemic is robbing citizens of their memories. Picked up by the authorities, our greying and newly-clueless hero is assigned a number and encouraged by doctors to forge a fresh identity. 14842 dutifully starts performing a series of tasks, which must be captured, selfie-style, on a Polaroid camera. Soon, he and a fellow amnesiac (Sofia Georgovassili; luminously inscrutable) become a dynamic duo. Well, sort of. As they crash cars and indulge in awkward toilet sex, the pair resemble eager-to-please zombies trying to get the hang of freshers’ week.
For those familiar with the work of Yorgos Lanthimos, these straight-faced shenanigans will be a dream come true. Like Lanthimos, in The Lobster, Nikou draws attention to the rules that govern supposedly spontaneous behaviour, especially when it comes to courtship. But we never feel as if we’re being lectured and true sensuality abounds (there’s a glorious sequence where a gauche wall-flower edges onto the dance-floor and starts twisting like a slinky eel).
Meanwhile, for readers muttering “it’s all Greek to me”, it will be good news that Nikou is partial to English and American songs. We get to hear several folk and pop classics, even if they’re not performed by the usual suspects (Scarborough Fair as sung by Anthony Georgiou proves especially, and hauntingly, hard to place). Wes Anderson is probably jealous as hell re the soundtrack; Charlie Kaufman, too. Nikou owes a debt to these directors but the way he blends the old and new – especially once we discover 14842’s secret - feels uniquely poignant.
Nikou’s next project features Carey Mulligan in the lead. Apples suggests, with great pertinence, that pandemics create new normals and nothing is set in stone. That said, Nikou’s career seems like something we can bank on. Remember his name.
Cert 12A, 91mins. Curzon Home Cinema