Christos Nikou • Director of Apples
“I always love movies that change the rules of our society a little bit”
by Kaleem Aftab
- VENICE 2020: Director Christos Nikou tells Cineuropa about Apples, the opening film of Venice’s Orizzonti section
Christos Nikou was assistant director on Dogtooth [+see also:
interview: Yorgos Lanthimos
film profile]. He now makes an unforgettable directorial debut with the 77th Venice Film Festival's Orizzonti opener Apples [+see also:
interview: Christos Nikou
film profile], which takes place in the middle of a global pandemic. Sound familiar? In this one, everyone loses their memory. Our “hero”, Aris, goes into rehab and is told that he has to create new memories, the right ones, by following instructions on cassette tapes. We found out more from the director.
Cineuropa: What was the inspiration for Apples?
Christos Nikou: My father used to eat around seven or eight apples a day, and he had an amazing memory. I always have in my mind this image of him eating apples. In a way, he is the reason why I wrote this script. When I started writing it, it was during a period when he had passed away. I was trying to forget his loss and I couldn't. I was trying to deal with it. At the same time, I wanted to understand why people forget so easily and how our memory can be selective so that we can forget something that hurts. Could it be that in the end, we are just all the things we don't forget?
The main character loses his memory. Did you have to do a lot of research into amnesia?
To be honest, I didn't do a lot of research. I tried to follow my instincts in a way, because movies are like fairy tales, so we don't have to follow all the rules exactly. And I didn't ask a doctor. Of course, I have seen a lot of movies involving amnesia. That was more of an aid.
What films did you watch?
I always love movies that change the rules of our society a little bit – like Charlie Kaufman does with his films, or like Leos Carax does with Holy Motors [+see also:
interview: Leos Carax
film profile]. We tried to create a surreal world with a different condition that is very close to the one that we are experiencing now. We set up this situation where amnesia is spreading like a virus. It's a bit like in José Saramago's novel Blindness, where everyone goes blind. It's an allegory. Of course, it's surreal for the whole world to have amnesia, a bit like now.
The lead actor, Aris Servetalis, looks like a priest from an old religious painting.
First of all, Aris is a very religious person. I remember that once we did some shooting on a Sunday morning, and he said, “But on Sunday morning I have to go to church.” I said, “Yes, but we have a shoot.” That's his normal look. Nonetheless, I wanted this look. He's a great actor whom I admire a lot. He acted in my short film. He started off as a dancer, and what I love about him is that he can say many things in a very minimalistic way, and he uses his body language really well. It's an excellent tool to play with for a director. I wrote the script with him in mind.
The voice on the cassette tapes that we hear throughout the film giving Aris instructions seemed like it was reality TV.
I borrowed it from 1984. Big Brother took that idea from 1984 – remember, it was the name of the person who was talking to the people. The actor's voice sounds very strange, like a frog. Somehow, what we wanted to convey with this voice is that people don't lead their own lives; they follow instructions. Primarily, we wanted to comment on social media and the fact that people care more about taking a selfie or being on TikTok than about living in the moment.
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