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The Seven Up! Strobe Effect August 15, 2021

Posted by nrhatch in Blogging, Life Balance, People.

Are you familiar with the Seven Up! documentary series that’s been under production for the past 50+ years?

The Up series of documentary films follows the lives of ten males and four females in England beginning in 1964, when they were seven years old. The first film was titled Seven Up!, with later films adjusting the number in the title to match the age of the subjects at the time of filming.  The documentary has had nine episodes—one every seven years—thus spanning 56 years.

Film maker and Director, Michael Apted, followed the 14 children he selected for the series from the adorable age of 7 for the next 56 years, filming the trajectory of their lives through education, career, marriage, children, divorce, illness, vacations, moves, etc.

The documentary presents their lives with strobe-light like intensity ~> grade school * blink * secondary school * blink * university * blink * first job * blink * marriage * blink * children * blink * divorce * blink * retirement * blink * death

* blink *

The apt metaphor “life flies by in the blink of an eye” came to mind as we watched the existential ups and downs in 49 Up!

As each subject aged with spectacular rapidity, we considered how various life choices might be influenced just by knowing that there would be a “filmed reckoning” every 7 years ~ at ages 14, 21, 28, 35, 42, 49, 56, and 63.

Would we be kinder?  More charitable?  More cooperative?  More forgiving? More generous?

Or just the opposite?

Judging from some of the random behavior caught on smart phones these days, it appears that many people don’t care who’s watching as they misbehave, throw tantrums, and have meltdowns in public places.

They refuse to change their stripes just because “the public” is watching.

In any event, the series may have ended with the recent demise of its director (who also directed Nell, Coal Miner’s Daughter, Gorillas in the Mist, Class Action, Amazing Grace, et al).

After 63 Up! aired in 2019, Michael Apted up and died.  The two events are likely unrelated since Apted didn’t pass away until January 2021.  At that time, a few journalists speculated that Apted committed suicide.  I found no confirmation to support their unbridled sensationalism.

Perhaps Apted’s death is just one of the existential truths of his life ~ a forced retirement, if you will.

Life . . . we live it, or we miss it.


1. Ally Bean - August 15, 2021

I’m familiar with the series, but never watched any of it. The premise of it is [was?] ambitious. I know what you mean about people making no distinction between private and public spaces anymore. Weird how smart phones have changed how people behave, everywhere.

nrhatch - August 15, 2021

We’ve only seen 49 up . . . and it wasn’t compelling enough for us to want to see the rest. But it was interesting to see the trajectory of their lives ebb and flow at such a high rate of speed.

ZOOM! We live it or we miss it.

Smart phones are the ultimate blessing and curse. Most of the time, the unedited footage is TMI! TMI! Turn it off! 😀

2. Rivergirl - August 15, 2021

No, I hadn’t heard of it…. but it would be interesting to watch.

nrhatch - August 15, 2021

If you decide to watch any of the series, I would start where we did ~ at 49 or maybe 56. The films include flashbacks to earlier footage, so starting later in the series is a big time saver unless you need something to binge on with your just pulled drafts!

3. Kate Crimmins - August 15, 2021

Interesting concept. I’ve never seen it though.

nrhatch - August 15, 2021

We found the “life stories” somewhat interesting, but I’m glad that we started with 49 Up! Enough back story was included to save us from wading through the 6 earlier films (7, 14, 21, 28, 35, 42).

We might watch 56 Up! since it’s available on Netflix.

4. Behind the Story - August 15, 2021

How long is each episode? If it’s well edited and even ruthlessly edited, it could be interesting. Or maybe just highlights for social psychologists to study. I think if I knew I would be filmed every seven years, that would encourage me to do my best. On the other hand, would it encourage me to SEEM to be doing my best.

nrhatch - August 15, 2021

The one we watched was approximately 2 hours. Earlier ones may have been shorter.

One guy admitted that he used the series to promote his charitable endeavors. That’s got me thinking about whether he would have had “charitable endeavors” if he wasn’t the focus of a documentary every 7 years. Another participant said that she found the filming increasingly intrusive but felt a sense of “obligation” to see it through. A third said, “that’s it. I’m done. No more. Where’s the EXIT?”

5. Debra - August 15, 2021

I have been watching this documentary project for years. I found it utterly fascinating. I sort of assumed with Apted’s death that the project ended as well, but it was so unique I hope someone else might carry it forward. And I couldn’t be more in agreement with you, Nancy, about the distressful and distasteful behaviors we now witness because of cell phone coverage. People really are shameless. I often wonder if my reaction is because I’m credibly “old” or if much younger people are as appalled as I am. I sometimes think perhaps too many people are entertained by what once was considered unconscionable behavior! So glad you watched the documentary. I hope more people will!

nrhatch - August 15, 2021

I expect that watching the series over a longer period of time would be like having mini “reunions” with the “cast of characters” every 7 years. That would be fun.

I think it’s up in the air whether there will be a 70 Up in Apted’s absence. It might be interesting to see whether the focus would shift with a different “director” behind the lens.

It’s not because you’re old . . . it’s because you (and I) didn’t grow up surrounded by the drive to be recognized via social media. We happily lived our lives outside the lens of a camera and I, for one, am delighted that that was the case. Wanting to be watched is NOT for me.

6. Val Boyko - August 17, 2021

I saw the earlier ones – up until 49 up. I’ll check out the later ones on Netflix. Thanks Nancy 💕

nrhatch - August 18, 2021

Enjoy catching up with the cast.

Val Boyko - August 18, 2021

Thanks Nancy!

7. L. Marie - August 18, 2021

Are you doing a soft drink series (Coke and now 7-Up)? If so, love it@ Thanks for the head’s up about this series.

nrhatch - August 18, 2021

Haha! I didn’t even notice that link, LM! But I guess I now should focus on Dr. Pepper!

L. Marie - August 20, 2021

Yes or root beer!

8. Erica/Erika - August 22, 2021

I am not at all familiar with this series. The “blink” gives me goosebumps and makes me feel a little anxious. You bring up a great point about his death and one of the existential truths. I try to make good choices and yet, I am only human. Thank you for a great reminder, Nancy.🙂

nrhatch - August 22, 2021

Fingers crossed that you will be around to share your smiles with family and friends for many moons to come!

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