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written by Kyle Sanders as part of his coverage of the 2020 Chicago International Film Festival
The year 2020 feels like something out of a movie, and that's because there are so MANY movies out there that seem to have predicted our current reality: a global pandemic affecting millions of lives, social upheaval charged by political conspiracies, and an overall "us vs. them" vibe plaguing our every corner.
It's no surprise then that some of the films screening at the Chicago International Film Festival this year involve such matters that seem eerily prescient.Two of those films are Apples (Greece/Poland/Slovenia) and And Tomorrow the Entire World (Germany).
Directed by Christos Nikou (a frequent collaborator with Yorgos Lanthimos), Apples gives us an all too familiar scenario involving a mysterious pandemic facing the world; however, the infected don't develop fevers and coughs, they develop amnesia.
One of the seemingly afflicted victims is Aris (Aris Servetalis). After awaking on a bus without any sense of his identity, he's taken to a rehabilitation program called "Learning How to Live." This place returns him to the world not with a face mask in tow, but a Polaroid camera.
Instead of practicing safe social distancing, he's tasked with photographing himself repeating milestones everyone accomplishes in life, from riding a bicycle to having a one night stand. In Aris' reality, the only vaccine available to him and the rest of the amnesiacs that pop up around him, is creating a new identity.
In Julia von Heinz's And Tomorrow the Entire World, it's not a pandemic that's afoot, but social resistance. In the Federal Republic of Germany, a "Democratic and social state," you have the "right to oppose anyone who tries to abolish the system."
It's a right that young Law student Luisa (Mala Amde) tries desperately to practice in a peaceful, orderly way while living in an Antifa commune. Soon however, she develops rather complex convictions both personal and political. Her best friend Batte believes that activism should remain peaceful and stoic, yet another commune member, Alfa, believes they can't make any impact unless they get dirty and push back against their adversaries who show far more aggression.
It's a fine line Luisa continually finds difficult to balance, wanting to rid her world of an ever-growing Fascist movement, but not knowing for certain how far she is willing to go to make that change happen.
As you can imagine, these two films bring a sense of impending doom that has already been imprinted on our brooding psyches. With Apples, Nikou builds a world that isn't apocalyptic, but permanently altered. The film suggests it is possible to make life worth living again, only that you must rebuild a sense of identity, for the one you had before no longer remains. There's no going back, only going forward.
Now that we are roughly eight months in a Covid-19 reality, a lot of us wonder what a post-Covid world will look like. Is it possible for our lives to get back on track, or are we forever changed?
And Tomorrow the World asks its audience to question the extremity of activism they're willing to go to--can peace really bring about change, or is violence and destruction necessary to meet those needs? We could probably pull up our social media news feeds and find people against the property damage caused during the racial injustice protests that took place over the summer. Yet throughout our history, hasn't destruction been the answer to social change?
Both films suggest that in our current state of affairs, there are solutions available for our problems. Those solutions though, almost never come without consequences. The change we need will most certainly cause change that will impact us for the rest of our lives.
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