Seven Plus Seven

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This is part two of the Up series that I am exploring.

We visit each child again when they are all fourteen years old. Each child becomes more of an individual person. They have more distinct personalities and are not just characterized by what school they are going to at the current moment. They are asked about their ambitions, romantic entanglements and several political questions. But mostly they are asked to be themselves. This is the true starting point an ethnological and film odyssey that Apted takes us on.

Each child is asked what they thought about themselves as seven year olds. It is strange to see how little they actually changed. Even some of their haircuts are the same. Their ambitions seemed to also not have changed much. One of the young boys, who was nicknamed monkey in the first edition but whose name is Tony, said when he was seven that he was going to be a jockey and we see him training to become a jockey at fourteen. The same could be said for several other boys and girls. Only a couple of the lower class boys are somewhere that they didn’t expect to be. One boy was transplanted to Australia when one of his parents remarried. But for the most part their external circumstances seemed to be the same.

It isn’t until Apted starts to explore who they are, do we see that their internal ideas have changed. For instance there is one boy who seemed to be a bouncy and precocious lot when he was seven has evolved into a slightly depressing fourteen year old. This is probably the product of having to move back in with his mother and having to deal with the fact that he was a bastard child and half black in a world that rejects both notions. He frankly talks about his response to when people ask where his father is. He just says that he doesn’t have a father. He is completely expressionless, but it is obvious that Apted was stunned by the story. He asks how that makes him feel and he says that it doesn’t make him feel anything. He doesn’t know any different.

Apted asks about what each child about money and being rich. Each child seems to only want a little bit. Only a couple of children say that they want to be rich. Most of them just want to have enough to be comfortable. They seem to all think that money doesn’t buy happiness. I think this question and the various answers are what distinguishes English children from American children. Most American children have imbued in them from the very beginning of their lives about the American dream which usually means having an absurd amount of money and individual success. But English children seem to have been imbued with something else, something that is more family based. A lot of the children express their ambitions in terms of having a family. This is connected to the money issue almost resolutely.

The movie was made in 1970 and the views of the children reflect the times. They talk about hippies, racial integration (The posh girl from boarding school says that she has never met a colored person and she hopes she never does! What an insane notion!), and the current state of England. They get their ideas from their parents and family members and the newspapers. Their ideas don’t seem to be quite their own yet. But they are evolving into their own. At one point an upper class boy talks about being a traditionalist. This was about nine years before Thatcher (the ultimate traditionalist in many people’s views despite being one of the first women ever to hold an important position in the country…) but we can see the hint of a wave of conservatism that will consume this country in this child. He reacts to the notions of hippies and revolution with a reversion that is more than likely learned from his parents and his strict education. A child is a product of both where he is born and how he is brought up. If this same child went to a state school, I don’t think he would have the same views.

This entry has gotten me excited to see how these subjects will evolve. I can’t wait to watch the next movie.

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