Apples (2020) poster

Apples (2020)



Greece/Poland. 2020.


Director – Christos Nikou, Screenplay – Christos Nikou & Stavros Raptis, Producers – Aris Dagios, Irakis Mavroidis, Christos Nikou, Angelos Venetis & Mariusz Wlodarski, Photography – Bartosz Swiniarski, Music – The Boy, Production Design – Sevi Morou. Production Company – Boo Productions/Lava Films/Perfo Production/Musuo Music Group.


Aris Servetalis (Aris), Sofia Georgovassili (Anna), Anna Kalaitzidou & Argyris Bakirtzis (Program Managers), Kostas Lakos (Other Patient)


A man wakes up on a bus with amnesia and no idea even of who he is. He is taken to hospital where it is explained that this is a condition being experienced by people everywhere. There is no apparent cure. Usually people have papers on them or their families come to collect them but the man has nobody. After some time uncollected, one of the staff at the hospital suggests that the man enter a program that helps people to create a new identity. Through the program, the man is given an apartment and some money. Every day he is delivered a tape-recorded message that gives him some mundane task to do – ride a bicycle, go to a party, go for a drive in a car, go to a movie, meet someone in a bar – in the hopes that this will jog his memory. During the course of this, he meets another amnesiac woman and they strike up a friendship.

Apples was a feature-length debut for Greek director Christos Nikou who had previously worked as an assistant director to Yorgos Lanthimos.

Apples belongs in a mini-genre of films dealing with a catastrophe that has removed or severely impaired one of the main senses or human faculties. You are reminded of works such as Luc Besson’s Le Dernier Combat (1983) where people have lost the ability to speak; Blindness (2008) about a worldwide plague of blindness; Perfect Sense (2011) where people are slowly losing each of their senses; The Last Days (2013) where the world is affected by a plague that causes extreme agoraphobia; A Quiet Place (2018) and The Silence (2019) where the world is forced to become silent after an invasion by creatures that kill anybody who makes a sound; Bird Box (2018) where people are killed if they look outdoors or remove their blindfolds; and Awake (2021) where the whole world can no longer sleep. (For a more detailed listing see Films About Catastrophe).

In recent years, there has been a couple of other catastrophe works about the world being affected by mass amnesia with the arthouse Embers (2015), which follows a diverse cross-section of people in a post-apocalyptic world where people’s memories periodically reset; and Little Fish (2020), a beautifully made film about a couple trying to survive in a world where a plague was causing mass amnesia.

An amnesiac Aris Servetalis in Apples (2020)
An amnesiac Aris Servetalis

Unlike Embers and Little Fish, Apples is not a conceptual science-fiction film. These others explore the effects that the catastrophe has on society and various individuals. Here the amnesia (it is not clear if it is a plague or what – no cause is ever mentioned) is something that is said to be striking a number of people in society but all it feels like is just ‘something that happens’ – nobody seems curious about causes, explores cures or anything. And the most we see that goes beyond the affected couple at the centre of the film is a street scene where a car is blocking the road and people are berating the man who is sitting on the sidewalk, not knowing who he is or the fact he has just gotten out of the car. In another subtle scene, Aris Servetalis and Sofia Georgovassili go to the movies – where they are screening The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)! – and take a photo for their albums against the poster in the lobby and, as they depart, we see another woman come up in the background and take a selfie, suggesting there is a host of others going through the new identity program.

Apples comes in a very low key manner. The direction and camera set-ups are matter-of-fact and plain. It is almost the complete opposite of the emotive approach taken by Little Fish, where the camera here is doing no more simply observing characters going about life. The characters are complete ciphers to us – the only names they are given are on the credits but we never hear them referred to by them throughout. We get the barest glimpses of the man’s life before – he is in his apartment, greets a dog – and when he wakes up with amnesia on the bus, we know nothing about who he used to be. He seems to go through and adjust to his condition in a way where what he thinks and feels about what is happening exists in a black box that is shut off to us. Similarly, the connection between Aris and Sofia remains in a complete black box.

The film does have a very dry and oblique sense of humour. I don’t know if this is a thing specific to Greek cinema. I look at the films of director Christos Nikou’s mentor Yorgos Lanthimos – Dogtooth (2009), The Lobster (2015) – and they have the same deadpan blackness where characters are black boxes and we are never privy to anything that goes on inside their heads. There is the same sense of deadpan blackness at play here – especially the scene where Aris Servetalis discovers that his encounter with Sofia Georgovassili in the bathroom of a nightclub was actually another of the daily suggestions as part of their program – although I don’t think that Nikou has as sharp a grasp on it as Georgios Lanthimos does.

Trailer here

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