42 Up (Apted, 1998)

It’s hard as a viewer to fully contemplate and ultimately grasp the scope of this series, the changes it documents, the hardships it proposes to reveal, the lives it represents. As the series goes on, getting deeper into these people’s lives, the gaps in between each program create a more apparent problematic ripple of uncertainty, that even though we’ve spent the course of six films seeing these people grow, they are still able to hide so much about themsevles that we can never understand who they really are. Michael Apted, the director of all the films since the second, understands that he can only reveal glimmers of his subjects true selves by asking the same base questions throughout the program that the original filmmakers did when the subjects were seven, creating a standard line of questioning that the subjects use as a buffer to explain core changes in their lives. The rest is up to our imagination. I find it fascinating the contrast in terms between my hope (as a viewer) for these people to live happy lives and the reality, or filmed reality (edited, manipulated by the filmmakers) they are actually presenting. A push pull relationship like this between the viewer, filmmaker, and subject inhabits the strongest and most poignant documentaries. I find the “Up Series” of the utmost importance nowadays simply because of it’s conflicted relationship/bind to the past memories of it’s subjects and the realization that history and in turn historiography, does not and cannot be simplified and reduced to a straight line of cause and effect occurances. Life, above all, is complicated. For better or worse, these subjects have a permanent glimpse into their own history, a dynamic and shifting hall of mirrors human beings rarely get to experience.

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