A sci-fi film about a global pandemic might not be what people really want to see right now, but Christos Nikou hopes that his new film “Apples,” and its tale of infectious amnesia, will help people explore the nature of identity and our connection to the past.
“I’m sure that some will recognize elements like loneliness, isolation, uncertainty about the future that we’re experiencing right now that are also in the film,” Nikou said during a panel for TheWrap’s International Screening Series. “But in this film, we try to see the pandemic in a very optimistic way … and I think that’s something we also have to do in our real life.
“Apples” screened at the Venice Film Festival — one of the very few festivals to have a physical edition in 2020 — where Cate Blanchett saw the film while serving as head of the festival’s jury. Though “Apples” wasn’t screening in competition, Blanchett was so moved by the film that she came aboard as an executive producer as it begins its campaign as Greece’s selection for the Best International Film Oscar. “Apples” follows Aris, a man who has been struck by a mysterious disease that inflicts total amnesia on those who contract it. While most have families to put themselves back together, Aris has no next of kin, and thus enters a recovery program designed to help people build new identities for themselves.
“I was so captivated by it. There was so much that was familiar to things that … sort of dream states I’ve had about how documented our lives are but how invisible and erased we are,” Blanchett said. “There’s a kind of fairy tale quality to ‘Apples,’ but at the same time it feels completely plausible.”
An important part of Aris’ recovery is to complete various therapy sessions using a cassette tape and to create new memories using a Polaroid camera, a notable narrative decision by Nikou that particularly impressed Blanchett. Nikou says that in an era where every moment can instantly be preserved via smartphones and cloud servers, it was important for him to set his story in a world of analog instead of digital.
“I believe that extensive use of technology has made our brains lazier. There’s no need to save something in your mind.” Nikou said. “People see something or hear something and they have to imitate it and take a photo of it with a selfie with a polaroid filter and upload it in a digital photo album and then a normal photo album. And ultimately people care more about the photo than the moment, and that’s something we wanted to comment on with the treatment that Aris has to go through.”
“I’m old enough to actually remember Polaroids,” Blanchett added. “I’m old enough to remember that it was a party camera. It was special and you could all gather around it, and it wasn’t really a repository of memory. You could take pictures — unless you’re a photographer obviously — and then you’d leave the roll of film and then think ‘Oh, I forgot to develop that!’ And so you would be ambushed by those memories, so there’s something magical about the Polaroid camera that brings memories right into the present.”
See more remarks from Nikou and Blanchett in the clip above, including what Nikou learned from his time working as an assistant director under “The Favourite” director Yorgos Lanthimos. Please note that the second half of the discussion contains major spoilers for the film.