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The Up Series (Seven Up / 7 Plus Seven / 21 Up / 28 Up / 35 Up / 42 Up)
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Starting in 1964 with Seven Up, renowned director Michael Apted has explored this Jesuit maxim. The original concept was to interview 14 children from diverse backgrounds from all over England, asking them about their lives and their dreams for the future. Every seven years, Apted has been back to talk to the same subjects, examining the progression of their lives. From cab driver Tony to East End schoolmates Jackie, Lynn, and Susan and the heart-breaking Neil, we see, as they enter their 40's, how close these subjects are to realizing their ambitions. An extraordinary look at the structure of life in the 20th century, The Up Series is, according to Roger Ebert, "an inspired, almost noble use of the film medium. Apted penetrates to the central mystery of life."
The premise behind the Up series is deceptively simple: take a cross-section of children at age 7, ask them about their hopes for the future, and then return every seven years to mark their progress. However, the results of these experiments, launched in 1963 by Britain's Granada Television, are anything but mundane, and their revelations about society, maturation, and the human condition were compiled into six extraordinary films, packaged together for the first time in this five-disc set. We meet the 14 children whose lives we will follow for the next 36 years in Seven Up, a episode of the television series The World in Action and directed by Paul Almond. What becomes evident almost immediately is that class and background will have an indelible effect on the kids for the rest of their lives; the upper-class boys and girls seem confident to the point of boorishness, while the middle- and working-class children seem resigned to a life of hard work or inevitable failure due to their backgrounds.
Fascinated by the footage, Almond's assistant, Michael Apted (later the director of The World Is Not Enough, among others, and president of the Directors' Guild), proposed to revisit the subjects every seven years, and in 1970, 7 Plus Seven was released, followed by 21 Up in '77, 28 Up in '84, 35 Up in '91, and the most recent entry, 42 Up, in '99 (Apted plans to continue the project). And the changes that occur to the original 14 (some of whom drop out of the project) are among the most fascinating and often tragic ever recorded on film. Success, failure, marriage and childbirth, poverty, illness--almost every possible element of the human experience passes before Apted's camera. And while each of the children's stories is riveting, the viewer will undoubtedly be gripped by that of Neil, a shy boy who endures incredible hardships. A one-of-a-kind series and sociological experiment, The Up Series is required viewing for not only documentary fans but any viewer with a curiosity about and concern for their fellow humans. The DVD set includes commentary by Apted on 42 Up. --Paul Gaita
- Exclusive interview: "Roger Ebert talks with Michael Apted"
- Photo gallery for each film
- Michael Apted biography
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Top Customer Reviews
There is no doubt that this series is one of the most interesting ever committed to film. Following the lives of a dozen Brits from the age of 7 through 49, the series is both fascinating and heartbreaking. It's impossible to watch the series without engaging in a guessing game, wondering where in life each will be when the next film in the series is released. It's also impossible to watch the series and not identify with the participants, seeing yourself in each of them. Few films have had the sociological impact of the Up Series.
However, while watching each of the films back-to-back, an uncomfortable feeling began to settle in. Despite director Michael Apted's insightful approach, at times he seems to ignore the fact that a documentarian's role is to serve as an impartial participant and that his opinion has no place in the telling of the story.
Apted often conducts his interviews with those from working-class backgrounds, and are still living in working-class environs, with the assumption that they must be miserable. Presumably, this is due to his own set of experiences. Though Apted was raised in a lower-income section of London, he managed to secure a scholarship to the City of London School and then studied law and history at Cambridge University. His attitude at times appears to say, "I succeeded, so why can't you?" Several times he asks these working-class participants if they aren't capable of more than what they are currently doing, not recognizing that several of them are either quite content with their lives or simply haven't had the opportunities or means to build better lives for themselves. He seems unable, or unwilling, to recognize the other riches in their lives, such as family, friends and community involvement, and often dismisses these achievements rather than celebrating them.
The most flagrant examples of Apted's prejudice take place in "35 Up" in his interview with Tony, and in "49 Up" in his interview with Jackie. In the interview with Tony, Apted comments that everything Tony has ever attempted in his life has been a failure, ignoring Tony's stunning achievements, especially in consideration of his working-class roots. (At the time of "35 Up," Tony had realized his dream of being a professional jockey, an actor, he owned his own business, owned his own home, and had been married for 13 years with 3 children. Hardly what anyone would call a failure.) At times, Apted appears unable to recognize that the courage required to attempt new ventures is success in itself regardless of the outcome.
In his interview with Jackie in "49 Up," Apted asks Jackie whether her son is similar to her at his age. When Jackie says that he is, Apted asks Jackie if that is a worry, implying that Jackie's life is less than admirable. Justifiably, Jackie becomes upset by the question prompting her to respond with, "I never said that he picked up all of my traits, only my best traits."
Even with its flaws, the Up Series is a fascinating study of class structure and human evolution. Highly recommended.
The new and complete 7 Up to 56 Up series has the eight films on seven-discs (7 Up and 7+7 on the first disc) and they come in a nice, one-inch thick hard case. Six of the discs are a new run and match each other and only the 49 Up disc is different, which is from the 2006 single disc release. Special features include: a 29 minute interview with Roger Ebert and the director Michael Apted which was filmed in Roger's studio in 2006, audio commentary on 42 Up by Apted, photo galleries, filmmakers biography and a few random trailers (none of the trailers are on the Up series). It would have been nice if they had added an insert to this set but the cover art is very nice looking and on the back there is a very brief but detailed account of the series. Unfortunately, there are no subtitles for any of the films and English is the only audio option. 7-42 Up are filmed in full frame and 42-56 Up were filmed using digital cameras. 49 & 56 Up are widescreen format. 7 Up is the only all black and white episode.
The 7 Up series is a fascinating study of human nature. My favorite episode is 21 Up because they really start to make good use of close ups and we begin to go deeper into their young adult lives. Suzy and Neil are the most fascinating to me and those two alone could have held my attention for the entire series. If you have never seen any of the episodes, you should consider watching them with some time in between each one. I would suggest watching one a week over 8 weeks and when doing so, think about how those who have been fans of these time capsules since the mid sixties have had to wait 7 years in between each new episode. The more time you have between each one, the more powerful they become.
I would say that the 7 Up Series is one of the 10 all-time best dvd sets to ever be produced and is a must own for anyone who has a serious home video library. I can't see how anyone would go wrong in buying the set for $37.99 offered by Amazon, that's only $4.75 per episode. When this goes out of print (and it will go oop) the price of this set will skyrocket like it has in the past. So stop thinking about it and buy it. You will be glad you did. And if you can afford it, please buy an extra copy for you local library, school or a friend.
of film in cinema history - a documentary life-long chronicle of the
lives of 14 people starting at 7 years old, revisiting them every seven
years through age 49 (so far).
This set contains the films through age 42, with '49 Up' needing
to be bought separately. At the time I purchased that was the most
economic option. (also, I read that the new 7-49 complete set
forces the early 4:3 episodes into 1:78, thus somewhat reframing
the original images).
While I could quibble, wishing for a bit more depth here and there
(especially with the women, where there's a bit too much emphasis
on love and marriage at the expense of all else), it's really an astounding,
moving, frightening and uplifting document. There's no way to watch
this remarkable series of films without reflecting deeply on one's own
life, and how you have changed (and stayed the same) over your own
While Michael Aped deserves every bit of credit he's received for this
amazing piece of cultural anthropology, it's important to note the first film,
7 Up,was actually directed by Paul Almond, and Apted was a that point a
researcher for the project.