Memory and Identity

When you hear that Greek director Christos Nikou’s debut feature Apples is about a pandemic, it may feel off-putting, given the current situation. But here, the issue is memory. All of a sudden, people are suffering from amnesia. The government has set up a service to help the many thousands who now wander the streets with no idea who they are. But the focus here is not on this vicious ailment, but on one man Aris (Aris Servetalis) who is immersed in this cloud of confusion.

Aris is taken to the Disturbed Memory Department of the Neurological Hospital, and he’s put forward for the ‘New Identity’ program. Strangers visit him, setting him odd tasks to try and bring his memory back, like riding a bicycle or fishing, He’s encouraged to experience life – as he does in a scene where he’s dancing to ‘Let’s Twist Again’.  He meets a woman (Sofia Georgovasili), also in the program, and suddenly life doesn’t seem so bleak. Better at least than when we first meet him, headbutting the wall in frustration.

The film will likely remind you of the work of fellow Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos (The Killing of a Sacred Deer, The Favourite) – which, perhaps, is no surprise. Nikou worked for Lanthimos as an assistant director on his international breakthrough, Dogtooth. Although Nikos’ debut and Lanthimos’ body of work bear some similarities – there’s a dryness and a detachment to both – Nikos has his own distinct take on things.

Better comparisons might be the Charlie Kaufman-scripted Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Christopher Nolan’s noir Memento, which saw Guy Pearce’s memory-afflicted insurance investigator document his life using Polaroid pictures, just as Aris is asked to do here. Nikou’s film is more about identity. What is it that makes up our identity? Is it the memories we share or our experiences? Or the objects around us?

While the title refers to the fruit that Aris repeatedly eats – they are meant to be nourishing food for one’s memory – Apples can really be read as a comment on 21st century living, and the vacuum people live in. Although the film was completed before the real pandemic, it’s only taken on even more resonance this past year. A film you won’t forget.

Apples is available on demand from 7 May. For more details, click here.

James Mottram