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SzaszTiger, TigerTits, Ass, and Real EstateTo Redeem One Person Is to Redeem the WorldTo Walk on EggshellsTransforming MadnessTrue CompassTruth & BeautyTruth Comes in BlowsTuesdays with MorrieTweakTwitch and ShoutUltimate JudgementUndercurrentsUnholy GhostUnlikelyVoices of AlcoholismVoices Of Alzheimer'sVoices of CaregivingVoices of RecoveryVoluntary MadnessWaiting for DaisyWar FareWashing My Life AwayWastedWaveWe're Not MonstersWeather Reports from the Autism FrontWeekends at BellevueWhat Did I Do Last Night?What Goes UpWhat I Learned in Medical SchoolWhat's Normal?When a Crocodile Eats the SunWhen Breath Becomes AirWhen Do I Get My Shoelaces Back?.....When It Gets DarkWhen the Piano StopsWhen You Are Engulfed in FlamesWhere Did It All Go Right?Where is the Mango Princess?Where the Roots Reach for WaterWhile the City SleptWhile They SleptWho Was Jacques Derrida?Why I'm Like ThisWildWill's ChoiceWinnicottWinnieWish I Could Be ThereWith Their EyesWomen Living with Self-InjuryWomen, Body, IllnessWrestling with the AngelYou Must Be DreamingYour Voice in My HeadZeldaZor
Watching Michael Apted's
"Up" series is an intensely personal experience for those who have
watched them for a few decades, or for those who have watched the recently released
collection of all of them from 7 Up to 42 Up. Being only a few
years younger than the participants, it's easy for me to identify with them: I
can't remember which was the first of the series I saw, but it may have been 21
Up or 28 Up. There are 12 people who talk about their lives every
seven years, and we often meet their families and see how their careers or work
life is going. The original plan of the TV program was to show the future
workers and the bosses in their youth, so viewers could see how the British
class structure was determined by social circumstances. With each new film, we
see both the truth and the limitations of this view, as the subjects' lives
both fulfill their own statements when they were 7 years old, and also go
beyond their expectations.
For each of the 12 interviewees, we
see flashbacks of their previous interviews, and we develop a sense of the
continuity of their lives, with all their hopes, disappointments, struggles,
and achievements. They have lived not only all over Britain, but in many
places around the world. They have married and divorced, remarried, had
children and now grandchildren. Most of them are doing fairy well in their
finances, some owning their own homes, with steady jobs, although a few express
worries about the future. 49 Up is striking for how comfortable the 12
are with their own lives, and have accepted their situations.
Some of them have health problems
such as carpel tunnel syndrome and arthritis, and others have mental health
problems. Some of them have gone into couples counseling, or have had
individual therapy. They don't say much about these experiences, but they say
they were useful. It is Neil who has had the most obvious emotional troubles.
At 7, he was the most charming and outgoing of the children. He grew up with
his family just outside Liverpool, and he wanted to go to university. But he
dropped out of Aberdeen University after his first term, and was living in a
squat. By the age of 28 he was living in northern Scotland, homeless. At 35,
he was living in a council estate in the Shetland Islands in the most northern
part of the UK. At 42 he was living in London, working on a local council. In
the most recent film, he has moved to Cumbria in the northwest of England, and has become involved in local politics and council work. He seems far more at
ease than he was 14 years ago, and more cheerful than 7 years ago. When he was
35, Apted asked him whether he was concerned about being mad, and he replied
that other people were concerned about it, but he has said little more on
camera about his mental health. He does say though that now living in the
countryside and seeing the beauty of nature every day has been very helpful for
him in keeping him grounded.
In a half hour interview with
Michael Apted on this DVD, film critic Robert Ebert is a little gushing in his
praise for the Up series, but it is easy to see why. Ebert has recently been
facing serious health problems, and 49 Up is unusual in its power to
make one reflect on life's meaning, one's place in the world, one's
accomplishments, and the nature of happiness. It bears watching several times,
and each time one learns a little more. Highly recommended.
© 2007 Christian
Perring. All rights reserved.
Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities
Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Reviews. His main
research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.
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