Sunday, February 17, 2013
"56 Up": British filmmakers track adults over a half century every seven years, and they do age (or ripen)!
It’s amazing that a filmmaker could keep track of six adults for a half century. The British television project behind “56 Up” must have started with Paul Almond and then been joined by Michael Apted.
More than twelve people have been followed since 1964, when they were age seven. They include both men and women, rich and poor, and at least one black male.
The stories have curious turns of fate. One man was homeless at age 28 but eventually became an influential politician in rural England, and said that he had always wanted to be a writer, but never seemed to get his stuff online.
The film also manages to show how the class divisions in British society are narrowing, and how society has been affected by cutbacks in government since Margaret Thatcher (“The Iron Lady”).
The physical changes are striking and rapid with change, especially for most of the men. Even 28 looks older than 21.
I think it would be interesting, if possible, to project the changes in a man (or, for a heterosexual male, woman) over time, with one minute per year. White men are likely to show beard and leg hair growth first, then arms, then chest (often), and then with age, lose scalp hair and often leg hair. Women have their own concerns about their timelines and how time affects “attractiveness”, at least in a society concerned with lookism.
There is a tendency to look at a young adult and believe that he will always look, frozen, exactly as he does at that moment (as in a bar or disco)l, even if we know intellectually that this is impossible. Yet, our brains tend to believe that some people are intrinsically old and some always young. If only we could stop the aging process and turn people into angels!
Aging happens not just because of biology and chemistry, but also physics. The Second Law of Thermodynamics demands that all systems deteriorate with time due to entropy. Nature counteracts this with conscious living things, which usually have an urge to reproduce to recreate youth.
Curiously, though, some of the people in the film say they didn’t want to have children, but then some did anyway.
The film was compiled from a TV series (ITV) and the narrative style shows the “reality television” show origin.
It’s also long, running 144 minutes. It played to a sold out crowd in a large auditorium at Landmark E Street in Washington DC today. (Also, Landmark, for some reason, your $7 cake tart concessions were stale!)
The official site from First Run Features is here.
Much of the early footage is in black and white and some of the older footage does look a bit faded.
One of the more interesting men played piano as an avocation, and in one scene (at age 21) practices a passage from the first movement of Beethoven's Piano Concerto #1 in C.