• Golden Globe Awards

Apples (Greece): Interview with Christos Nikou

Christos Nikou’s debut film Apples is definitely quirky.  A man suffering from total amnesia, struggles to reinvent himself in a borderline surrealistic, dreamlike  world, yet it is also astutely a humanistic story. The hero is a quiet man in his 40s who, like many others around him, has “forgotten” his identity and origins. In the care of his doctors, he sets out to reintegrate himself in urban life by creating new memories. He and a young woman, also amnesiac, wander through the motions of everyday living trying to latch on to some sense of normalcy and connection.
What brought you to the idea for?
I always loved to watch movies that create worlds – worlds that are a little different than ours. That’s what I tried to do with Apples. It’s also a very personal story. I started writing the script when I was trying to deal with the loss of my father but I couldn’t. I was trying to understand how selective our memory is, how we could erase something that hurt us, and, if we erased it, whether we would lose our existence. Could we be the things that we don’t forget? In a way we are our memories. So, I tried to transfer my personal story to an ecumenical one, in a world where amnesia spreads like a virus.
Explain how this story helped you deal with the loss of your father. Were you afraid that you might forget, or did you feel it was important to you to keep the memory of your father?
In the beginning I was just trying to understand how people forget so easily, and why as a society we forget so easily. To be honest I believe that we can’t erase our memories. We have to continue remembering, we have to face them and become stronger for it. It’s the only way to restart our lives and to feel optimistic. This is what we tried to do with the movie also, to give an optimistic ending.
The film begins and ends with apples. Why apples?
Of course, the apple is a fruit that plays an important role in history, from the Biblical story of Adam and Eve, to the story of Newton when he discovered gravity, and other moments. But I included it for three reasons: first, apples can improve your memory; the second reason is a very personal one – my father used to eat around 7-8 apples per day and had a very strong memory; and the third has to do with my belief that with the extensive use of technology, our brains have become a little lazier. There is no need to save something in our minds anymore as we store our data in devices, and most of the time devices of the company “Apple”.
Aside from your film being a personal story, could we also describe it as a cautionary tale? Do you feel that we suffer from mass amnesia, on an individual but also national and global level?
Yes. I always try to adapt my personal stories to universal ones, and observe how society behaves. I also believe that allegories are political in their approach. Think, when politicians make mistakes… after a week we no longer remember and we vote for them again … Especially the last 20-30 years, we forget more and more. I think it is because, as I said before, technology has made us lazier. Ever for going from one place to the other, we are use google maps instead of our minds – that’s a bit insane.  Just think, in the past we remembered up to 100 telephone numbers and right now we don’t even remember one or two.  You can feel that somehow we are losing our ability to remember things and moments. The strange thing is that in the end we will also forget our emotions.
I wonder if there is a psychological factor responsible for our loss of memory. It seems to me that we are suffering from voluntary amnesia. When you were making the film, did you consider who is getting the amnesia virus and who is not?
We don’t know who has amnesia. Maybe all of them do. Maybe the doctors only don’t have it. The sciences seem to control our lives.
The film makes an indirect comment on social media also, and how they have affected our lives. The treatment that the character has to follow is to reenact on a daily basis different activities that are required by the doctors, to imitate them, then take a selfie with a polaroid camera and put it in a photo album. This is how people behave in social media and that’s how we have lost our privacy.  It’s as if anybody can look into your life through Instagram or other social media accounts.
Maybe this phenomenon extends all the way to our unconscious. It’s as if these memories are foreign. They don’t necessarily belong to the character but to an alternate existence.
Yes, and accidentally, through this treatment, the doctors are creating people with exactly the same memories. It’s as if society is pushing us to shed our personality.
Do you feel that memory is crucial for human connection?
We could still keep our character perhaps, but without our past for sure we lose our ability to experience emotions.
Even though you are dealing with serious matters, the film has a humorous tone. Maybe the characters are better off living in oblivion after all? Obviously this goes against everything you’ve said so far but the humor is undeniable.
We don’t have to take ourselves too seriously. I believe that our lives are mixed with comedic and tragic moments. That’s why the film starts a little bit mysterious, then goes comedic and ends with a more dramatic approach.
Do you feel you belong to the Greek New Wave style of filmmaking, the Yorgos Lanthimos school, or how do you feel that your film differs?
Our references for this film were Charles Kaufman’s stories, or (the cinema of) Leos Carax, Spike JonzeThe Truman Show, which is amazingly prophetic. Since I was 16, I’ve been writing stories like Apples. To be honest, I feel that it’s more of a coincidence that Yorgos and I come from the same country and have similar tastes or references. I think that Yorgos’ movies are darker while we tried to make something a little more tender.