Now opening in a very limited release in the United States, the fascinating and insightful documentary 56 Up continues to chronicle the lives of various British people interviewed and profiled every seven years from childhood to seasoned adult (mid 50’s). We witness the intersection of their hopes and fears meet the realities of expectations through the years. For some additional background: in 1964, British TV produced a film titled 7 Up, which followed a few 7 year-old’s and chronicled their lives in a variety of documentary series through out the years. At a two hour and 15 minute running time, we only get a glimpse of the lives fully displayed. 56 Up reflects on the years that have passed and traced their lives in current days.
Synopsis: “Give me the child until he is seven and I will give you the man.” — St. Francis Xavier. Starting in 1964 with Seven Up, The UP Series has explored this Jesuit maxim. The original concept was to interview 14 children from diverse backgrounds from all over England, asking them about their lives and their dreams for the future. Every seven years, renowned director Michael Apted, a researcher for Seven Up, has been back to talk to them, examining the progression of their lives.” Many of the people featured in 56 UP have married or re-married and have witnessed career changes as well as their children growing older.
The various people make for interesting subject matters. Its amazing how we set up expectations for our lives only for it to not work out as our anticipations. Many people featured seem to have relational issues and reveal intimate details on marriage, family, and life. A no regrets look at life leads one of the subject matters to even declare: “Why look back and say I wish I did this or that…Ive had a great career and a good life.” The subject matter which caught me most was the story of Neil. It was a heartbreaking tale of a man who didn’t get into a preferred university, met additional hardships, and ended up homeless. When all seems hopeless, he gains a late career as a politician fighting causes for the people. Neil is the most philosophical of the subject matters and admitted he “preferred the Old Testament God because he’s unpredictable.” Another person named Peter pulled out of the project because the British tabloids portrayed him in a negative light. He came back to the project…to promote his band.
A major theme dominates the overall experience of 56 Up which was showcased in the Peter character. A documentary such as 56 Up can only show the more interesting parts of life still doesn’t show the whole picture. A mere snapshot from life projected on screen is simply perception. Life cannot be contained on film, but 56 Up does as best as it can which is still remarkable, dense, and complex documenting experience. In a cultural era where American reality TV is glossy edited and manufactured as a product such as The Kardashian’s and Honey Boo Boo, the documentary 56 Up is as glamorous as living an ordinary life. Nothing featured is really too special nor sensationalized. How refreshing and even intriguing! Simply put, this is a masterful documentary providing a snapshot of the progression of aging. For such an standard look at life, its vivid and articulate. Highly recommended!
Anthony: Here is a link to the pictures. The internet was acting up.