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Dallas, Texas, United States

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Up Series

Previously I posted about the joy of reading or watching a series with your spouse in which you discuss each installment or episode before going on to the next.  With regard to the last series that I enjoyed this way, I wondered afterwards whether I could recommend it.  The final conclusion to this fictional story about intertwined lives left me wondering what the writers were trying to say.

Authors of fables can make the circumstances, events, and outcomes fit whatever moral they want to project.  Writers of historical fiction revise the reality to accommodate the lesson.  Historians, biographers, and documentary filmmakers, on the other hand, do not have as much discretion.

The documentary film series that my wife Shannon and I are currently watching together on Netflix streaming is the Up Series.  The films in this series were made in a span of forty-nine years.  This strobe light biography interviews children at age seven and then again every seven years up to where they are helping to raise the children of their children.

The first film in the series starts with a premise that predicts outcomes for each actor.  The subsequent films, however, document the personal histories of individuals living in a world without a script where bad things do happen to good people.  The only lessons to be found in these stories are the universal themes common to all mortals:  birth and death, love and grief, pride and regret.

After I finished watching each film, I enjoyed making predictions to my wife about what would happen to the people next.  The directors laid out their own predictions by choosing which interview edits to use as foreshadowing.  Unlike the directors, however, I only had to wait days, not years, to see if my guesses were correct.

The later films in the series focus less on future outcomes and more on retrospection.  The subjects of this experiment are bluntly asked to self-assess.  As a viewer comparing one life to another, I benefited from this series in that it helped me refine my personal definition of what it means to live a successful life.

I look forward to watching the next film in the series.  The release will be seven years after the last which is now just four years from today.  This might seem like a long time to those accustomed to binge-watching but I have been made to learn patience by enduring the periods between releases in the Star Wars franchise.