10 October 2007

Thanks to the People of Seven Up

Last night I watched Michael Apted's 49 Up, the latest installment in the long-running Up Series of documentaries. Starting with Seven Up in 1964, these films check in on several British citizens every seven years. (There's a more general review of this movie and the series at documentaryfilms.net.) I think I came across these movies when its subjects were twenty-one or twenty-eight years old, which means I've been checking in on them for half their lives.

A recurring theme in the recent documentaries, including the latest, is how much of an imposition it's been to participate in the series. The interviewees were chosen over four decades ago by their headmasters because, I suspect, they were a little more open and articulate than the average seven-year-old. And now they've been asked to examine their lives before the English-speaking world every seven years. Some people have dropped out of the filming, temporarily or permanently, while others shield parts of their lives from the cameras.

So I feel I should express my gratitude to those brave people. I've enjoyed watching them because their lives and interviews have offered such insight into what it's like being human. Since I'm a few years younger, I've been able to watch them age and foresee my own changes. It's reassuring to see these strangers build families and find fulfillment, sad to hear about their losses, worrisome to see them taking risks. Naturally, a two-hour documentary every seven years can show only slices of their lives, but these slices are also a slice of humanity as a whole.

As to this installment, among its major themes seems to be real estate. A number of the interviewees have invested more of themselves in their homes (or second homes). It was also interesting to hear the dissatisfaction with Tony Blair's government at the time the film was shot, coming from both the left and the right. What will life bring at fifty-six?

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