facing mortality

In 1964, a British television program interviewed a number of seven-year-olds. Every seven years, they return to film the same people.

These individuals are about eight years older than I am. The first film I saw in this series was 28 Up, in the UC Theater in Berkeley when I was a graduate student, and since then I’ve looked forward to every release. 56 Up broadcast in England last May, but it’s appearing in US theaters only starting this week. It’s not showing anytime soon in Pittsburgh, but the Carnegie Library is awesome: they purchased and loan out a Region 1 DVD available only to educational institutions.

I identify most closely with Nick, a professor at the University of Wisconsin. How strange to see Nick and Susie appearing together at age 56; surely their lives would never have crossed but for this. Beginning at 1:17, he reflects:

[T]hey film me doing all this daft stuff… and then they present this tiny little snippet of your life, and it’s like, that’s all there is to me? … The idea of looking at a bunch of people over time, and how they evolve, that was a really nifty idea. It isn’t a picture really of the essence of Nick or Susie, it’s a picture of everyman. It’s how a person, any person, how they change… It’s not an absolute accurate picture of me, but it’s a picture of somebody, and that’s the value of it.

Susie adds:

But then we’re putting ourselves out to be that person.

A few minutes earlier in the film, Nick reflects on his elderly parents not doing well. The film shows him sitting near the graves of  his two paternal grandparents. He smiles at the memories of being with them, then weeps when he recollects his grandmother dying when he was five or six years old.

My children are around that age. One of my father’s brothers died today, R.I.P.



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