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‘Apples’ director Christos Nikou speaks on creating art from a place of pain

June 28, 2022
4 min read time

Apples is a joyous study in getting to make exactly the movie you want. Its specificity of tone and taking the time to bask in its strangeness owe many thanks to the self-assured hand of filmmaker Christos Nikou. Nikou has invented a strange and wondrous world in which a pandemic of amnesia is overrunning people. There’s an institute where those who remain unclaimed by relatives can attend. There they can assume a new identity and remember what emotions are with the help of exercises they are tasked with by doctors.

Nikou’s land of amnesia is both a disturbing and innocent place. It’s bizarrely upsetting and reassuring all at once. It’s sad but also has this sense of new discovery. It’s essentially a chance to be reborn, but there’s also a sense of loss that is so acute that rebirth seems like a bad idea.

It makes sense that Nikou wrote the movie out of a sense of loss. He elaborates, “I started writing the film back in 2014. It was a time when I was dealing with the loss of my father, and I was trying to understand many things about our memory and how our memory functions, and how [we] can move on in [our] life if we can actually understand the things we don’t forget… I was using all these questions and my personal thoughts to create a character who is trying to understand his own position and goal.”

The character Nikou created is Aris, played by Greek actor Aris Servetalis is often just an observer, taking in a world with only really the knowledge of language. It is interesting to discover what Nikou instinctively remembers: He likes apples, and eats them constantly. He has not forgotten how to ride a bike. It’s as if Nikou is challenging Aris to remember whatever he is burying and asking his audience what they think they’d hold onto.

There is no doubting that Aris seems to be blanketed in a shroud of sadness. When asked if trauma is triggering memory loss in Nikou’s version of a pandemic, he does not deny it, “I think that yes, in a way they are going through a trauma. Maybe all the amnesiacs are going through a trauma, and maybe not. If we focus on the main character who is dealing with something, and the world around him, and questioning all these things about life and existence and somehow he has to get a new life and understand if this new thing they are building for him is something he wants or not.”

It is indeed up for debate if any of these new identities will have meaning. The task that Ari is given is meant to trigger emotion and create new memories, but all don't seem beneficial. He must crash a car, have a one-night stand, and much more. It’s clear some of these things he does not want to do.

When curious if any character would succeed in their new identity, “I don’t know. I never thought of that,” Nikous replied. “I think like all of us we are trying to make new starts and find ways to create from the scraps. I’ve seen, for example, after any break-up there is a new start in our life.”

There are also underpinnings of a love story here as Aris meets Anna (Sofia Georgovassili) who has also lost her memories and is now going through the identity program. When Anna recruits Aris to help her do something “very difficult” Aris agrees to go along, intrigued, as Anna is further along in the program than he is, but, sadly, Aris’ time with Anna is short-lived.

Nikou spoke of their brief encounter, “I think that he had feelings for her. He wanted at the beginning to take care of her and protect her, to be close to her, but the more he understands her the more he feels that she lives in an ephemeral way and that she is using him a little bit. He understands this and he realizes a lot of things about his real life and that’s why decides to leave.”

As Aris dives deeper into his tasks and “treatment” the audience is rarely let in on if it is “working” for him. In the end, the audience is left to draw their own conclusions. Nevertheless, the suspense of what may be asked of Aris next does help drive the story, and you may assume that some of what Aris completed is darker than what is shown on screen, “We tried to find tasks that are somehow tasks that show things we have in common,” Nikous mused.

“Every task is giving a different emotion. It could be something that scares them, something that is related [to] lust or with desire, or other things, or some of them just create happiness or fear. Everything was something different or something that makes them feel very sad. We start with the first one… ‘when you learn to ride a bike, you will never forget it.’ We start with that and end up with lust. The tasks are trying to do the whole journey of life.”

Nikou seems to also pose the question, ‘can you return to your old life if you lose it? Would they want to? More importantly, if the life you left was filled with sadness, would you be willing to go back to that emotion if you were given the chance to escape it? Heavy existential questions indeed, it seems fair to not answer them outright. Nevertheless, Nikou wants happiness for Aris and emphasized the ending of the film is optimistic: “I hope he will be a little bit [wiser] and he will start appreciating things again.”


Check your VOD listings to stream Apples!


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