For many storytellers, metafiction is a polarizing literary technique. To some, it’s an indispensable tool, used to playfully poke holes in an otherwise meticulously crafted illusion of reality. To others, metafiction is nothing more than a gimmick--a self-indulgent form of irony employed by cowardly writers to shield themselves from anything that might resemble an earnest emotion. This debate is alive and well in today’s Staff Pick Premiere, “Apple”, from Norwegian filmmaker Yngvild Sve Flikke.
Based on a screenplay by the novelist Gunnhild Øyehaug, “Apple” gives new meaning to the concept of a story within a story, effortlessly peeling back narrative layer upon narrative layer, all the while trading protagonists, narrators and periods, yet somehow never losing the thread. According to Øyehaug “the element in metafiction of shock and surprise is...a sort of questioning the very ground you’re standing on, and that’s the kind of question that’s always rewarding to ask.” The filmmakers’ commitment to metafiction is so strong that even one of the film’s protagonists, a literary scholar named Signe, dedicates her life’s work to asking this same question, but ultimately reaches the opposite conclusion, deeming it a worthless pursuit.
Despite her misgivings, however, Signe can no more readily extricate herself from the lovely and poignant short film in which she exists than you or I can extricate ourselves from the moment that just elapsed as we stared into the screens in front of us, reading these words. Nor can we unhear the friendly overture of the film’s primary narrator, a leafy apple tree who directly addresses the audience in the middle of act two. This is all to say that we the viewers are yet one more concentric circle, orbiting the stories embedded within “Apple”. Now, whether or not we represent the outermost layer is anyone’s guess.
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