With a beginning that reminded me of the doleful surrealism of Lanthimos’s The Lobster (2015), Christos Nikou gives us an unexpectedly gentle portrait of a man struggling with grief.
Aris (Aris Servetalis) lives in an apartment full of objects but empty of life. When he wakes on a bus with no ID or memory of who he is, he becomes patient 14842 in a growing epidemic of amnesiacs. Cared for in a hospital, he is one of the few with no family to collect him and care for him. Offered the chance of an independent life through an experimental New Identity program, he is housed in an apartment with a prompt every day for a task he must accomplish and document with a Polaroid photo. The tasks will gradually reconnect him with the world and with other people, the photos are there to show proof to the program managers that he is on track.
The tasks at first are simple; ride a bike, go to a party, watch a horror movie at a cinema. At the cinema, Aris meets Anna (Sofia Georgovassili) who is following the same program and they weave in and out of each other’s lives. Anna faces each task without question and with the disingenuousness of a person disconnected from any emotional baggage but we begin to see small anomalies and hesitations in Aris, clues that his path is perhaps not the same as hers.
As an allegory, an epidemic of amnesia is an interesting premise. It only seems to be happening to adults in their 30s and 40s, almost like a reset when life and emotion become unbearable. The mise en scène has a retro feel, with tape recorders and Polaroids eschewing any technology that might lock individuals into a digital footprint. It reminds me of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) in its themes, albeit with a gentler and more enigmatic approach. We might try to forget but music and food and our connections to people keep us anchored.
The ending is beautiful and I was glad that I could rewind and rewatch the beginning to properly understand its significance – the flowers he buys, the apples, the dress. It’s a beautiful coda that shows the gentle heart of the film.
Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.