49 Up [Import]
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49 UP is the seventh film in a series of landmark documentaries that began 42 years ago when UK-based Granada's WORLD IN ACTION team, inspired by the Jesuit maxim “Give me the child until he is seven and I will give you the man,” interviewed a diverse group of seven-year-old children from all over England, asking them about their lives and their dreams for the future. Michael Apted, a researcher for the original film, has returned to interview the “children” every seven years since, at ages 14, 21, 28, 35, 42 and now again at age 49.
In this latest chapter, more life-changing decisions are revealed, more shocking announcements made, and more of the original group take part than ever before, speaking out on a variety of subjects including love, marriage, career, class and prejudice.
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Top Customer Reviews
of film in cinema history - a documentary life-long chronicle of the
lives of 14 people starting at 7 years old, revisiting them every seven
years through age 49 (so far).
While I could quibble, wishing for a bit more depth here and there
(especially with the women, where there's a bit too much emphasis
on love and marriage at the expense of all else), it's really an astounding,
moving, frightening and uplifting document. There's no way to watch
this remarkable series of films without reflecting deeply on one's own
life, and how you have changed (and stayed the same) over your own
While Michael Aped deserves every bit of credit he's received for this
amazing piece of cultural anthropology, it's important to note the first film,
7 Up,was actually directed by Paul Almond, and Apted was a that point a
researcher for the project.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
If you only watch 49 Up, you'll get enough back story to know who these people are, but the most satisfying approach is to go through the documentaries in the order they were shot. We are voyeurs in the lives of: Andrew, John and Suzie, upper-class kids who knew early on who they were and what they would do; Simon and Paul, abandoned by their mothers and raised in an orphanage; Jackie, Sue and Lynne, working class girls from London's East End; Nick and Neil, middle class kids with an intellectual bent; Tony, a lively, lovable Cockney; and Bruce, who moves up and down the class ladder. The films prove that you can see the man or woman who will emerge in the child of seven. Their personalities are set; all that's unknown are the circumstances under which their lives will play out.
These are ordinary people; the genius of the series is that they become particular enough to us over the course of the films to feel special. We care about them, and what happens to them. At 49, the group seems much happier than they were in the previous two films. Most of them have passed through the trauma of losing their parents, and they've made peace with career successes and setbacks. In general, they now accept who they are; they're not fighting it or struggling to figure it out.
Class plays less of a role in these lives than the filmmakers initially thought it would. Partly that's an accident of timing. 1963, when these children were seven, turned out to be a watershed year in Britain: the old wartime mentality was ending, the Beatles were beginning, and there was a sense of new possibilities in the air. Between the sense of new opportunity and the economic entitlements of the various Labour governments, even the most disadvantaged of these children managed to carve out a reasonable lifestyle. Temperament, more than economics, determined their fates.
Apted has a gift for balancing objectivity about these people (he asks some tough questions) and compassion for them. It they didn't trust him, the series would have ended a long time ago. He doesn't ask a lot of topical or political questions, so the temporal and trivial are stripped away. What's left are moving images of people born in the middle of the twentieth century. Watching them, we learn how they've faced the big issues of being human: dealing with their parents and upbringing; puberty; being open to the possibility of love; mating and breeding; finding their place in the world; the death of near and dear ones. Of course, watching them is like watching ourselves. Learning about them is learning about ourselves. I'm rooting for all of them, and looking forward to seeing how they're faring at fifty six.
It has been suggested that the series was originally intended to illustrate that children born into various social classes were destined to follow a specific course in life. But time has revealed something very different: that money, class, and education are superficial differences, and that all of us are bound by our common human experience. Every one of the participants has dealt with some sort of adversity -- the death of parents, divorce, illness, depression, loss of a job -- but has persevered with the love and support of family and friends. We learn about their joys, too -- the arrival of grandchildren, a new love, a new career.
Another reviewer commented that time has not been kind to most of the participants from a physical standpoint. No doubt a young person wrote that! Yes, many folks our age (including me) have put on some extra pounds, lost hair or gone grayer, or developed a few wrinkles. But I find their faces kinder and wiser and more beautiful, even more so when those who are married reaffirm their love for one another and talk about how their spouses have helped them through the hard times.
One thing that impresses me is that all of the subjects are good people -- not perfect, not immune from taking a wrong turn once in a while, but trying hard to do the right thing in life. I am so proud of all of them and can hardly wait seven years to find out how they have fared since I saw them last.
There are challenges ahead for Michael Apted and his crew. Clearly it is becoming more difficult for some of the participants to find their lives under scrutiny every seven years, for a couple of them suggested that "49 Up" will be their last film. At the same time, the sheer volume of footage will make it increasingly difficult to bring viewers up to date on each participant every seven years while including flashbacks from the previous films. (Even now, "49 Up" probably will not be as meaningful to those who have not seen the earlier films.)
But the series is historic, of deep and timeless value, and one of the most moving documentaries I have ever seen. I hope it will continue, but if some of the participants find later that they can't continue, nonetheless, in the first seven films they have given us an incomparable gift.
"Give me a child until he is seven, and I will give you the man," goes a Jesuit proverb, which the 'Up' documentaries quote. At seven year intervals Director Apted revisited 14 children in his native country of Britain. This was early "reality TV" before the concept was given a name. While the children were from so-called "diverse" backgrounds, they were mostly economic diverse rather than ethnically diverse. All but one are Caucasian. What is amazing is that all 14 are still living at age 49 and, though one woman has said that she doesn't wish to continue to participate in the series, all 14 are covered in this most recent chapter of the series.
The most important thing to know is that this film stands on it's own and does not require watching the previous chapters. Director Apted uses enough footage from the prior films to, not only bring you up to date, but to show you immediate similarities to what the "kids" looked like as they grew older. Though I may go back to the films I missed, I didn't feel that it was necessary.
At over 2 hours in length, this is not a short film but it will hold your attention.
As a bonus the DVD adds a 30 minute interview with Director Apted and film critic Roger Ebert. This only adds to the enjoyment of the DVD. Strangely, what sounds like an air conditioner running in the background (or it could be just poor miking) runs through the interview that was recorded in June 2006. This is a minor defect as it's the feature film you will be watching and the sound on that is perfect.
You remember these 14 people long after you watch this film. It'll be another 7 years before the next film is made - (How does Apted keep track of where these folks are over the years?) - and I, for one am anxious to see what road their lives will take by the time it's ready for Apted to film "56 UP".
There is a voyeuristic aspect in viewing the Up series. But it is more than that; it is more than an obsessive recording of the lives of 14 individuals. As Roger Ebert notes in the accompanying interview of Michael Apted, many of us have grown up alongside these people and so the Up series is a chance for us to reflect on our own lives. I know of no other medium that allows such a personal examination of a single generation. A generation that, although it is the tail end of the baby boom, is none the less significant for the period it has covered. True, Apted is careful not to question too deeply about politics and world events, and this is as it should be. What is important (for the viewer to retain interest) is how the lives of these people progresses in terms of family, relationships, occupations etc - the stuff of everyday life. Whether political, economic, or world events influence their lives is less important; although in some cases this does occur and has been used by at least one participant to leverage a personal interest.
Many, if not all, the participants seem to view their involvement as a stressful event every seven years, a poison pill. It seems from 49 Up that at least one and perhaps more may not return for 56 Up. This would be unfortunate as 49 Up showed that most had reached a comfortable plateau in their lives, and one imagines that in the next seven years many will become even more comfortable within themselves and relish the opportunity to reflect back on life. Others are sure to be less comfortable with that. One thing is certain, we (the viewers) should feel privileged that these individuals allow us the opportunity to invade their lives every seven years.
What worked so well, here, was the great sensitivity and attention to detail that Michael Apted clearly had, when providing archived clips from the previous films, as well as bringing the viewers up to speed with the subjects, their marriages (and divorces), children, career changes and the parallel between their views, feelings and perceptions as seven year old children, progressing all the way into their middle age at 49. We see a great cross section of the public, portrayed on film, in the "case studies" of his subjects. There's everything from the snooty upper class (three young boys who are all attending private academies, looking down on those from lower stock, and basically continuing their perpetual feelings of superiority into middle age), to young men who grew up in a children's home together (one, the product of a single parent home--the only example of this in the movie).
There are great humorous moments here, as well as insightful and very poignant points that really make the subjects out to be human, just like the rest of us. The accessiblity into their lives, hearts and inner most secrets could come off as voyeuristic. Instead, Apted very sensitively presents the ups, downs, triumphs and tribulations with grace and class. I highly reccomend this.