Birthday panic

A week ago I happened to find the Up Series. It’s a documentary series directed by Michael Apted who has followed the lives of 14 British children by interviewing them once in every seven years. The first documentary was filmed in 1964 when the kids were sever-year-olds, and in the latest one the same kids are 56-year-old adults.

I watched the series far too quickly. I mean, a week ago Suzy, Nick, Andrew, Neil and Jackie were seven, and now they are 56. But once you start watching it, you can’t really stop. You finish one and you know how they are at 28 but then you know that you could also just continue and watch what happens to them when they are 35, 42, 49 and 56.

When a human life is put into eight pictures, the outcome is somewhat fascinating but also haunting – how quickly it all happens.

You can observe many things within those years. I guess Apted’s initial idea was to see if the old Jesuit motto: “Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man” is true, and if the social class ends up predetermine these children’s future.

However, as 56-year-olds many of the adults in the documentary are also criticizing the series. Many of them are trying to verbalize the mismatch between the series and their own experience of their own life.

I liked the way Suzy puts it:

“ I don’t know what happened… I was quite adamant that I was not going to do it [take part to the series anymore]. I suppose I have this ridiculous sense of loyalty to it even though I hate it. And that’s such a contradiction. Isn’t it? I think it’s like reading a bad book. I still read it. I still see it through. Hmm… I guess I put this down to be a bad book but I’ll see it through.”

Maybe what they are feeling, or what I am feeling when I am watching them, is the same kind of sense of panic you experience on every birthday when you make an oversimplification of your own life; you reflect the time in reference to your previous birthday. You perceive the time but stop giving any credit to the actual life that has happened within that time.


PS. Happy birthday K!

PPS. Thank you for L for the help with the animation!

© EJ 2013 All rights reserved (Contact me if you want to make a copy and use any images for publication elsewhere: simpledrawings [at] gmail [dot] com)