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July 29, 2014

7 Plus Seven

by Franz Patrick


7 Plus Seven (1970)
★★★★ / ★★★★

Director Michael Apted takes creative control of the longitudinal project which involves revisiting every seven years a group of individuals who belong in various levels of the British social strata. The subjects are now fourteen years old and many of their perspectives, about themselves and others, have undergone a shift. What is surprising this time around is how certain aspects of their personalities or the way they think have not changed one bit. In fact, some of their beliefs appear to have been solidified.

The fourteen young adolescents are more interesting this time around because they are better equipped to communicate what they wish to express. Particularly fascinating is John. When he was seven, he knew exactly which school he was going to attend. Coming from a rather privileged background, it was expected of him to get there—and he did. With hopes of becoming a politician, although I did not necessarily agree with a lot of what he had to say especially in his dismissal of the value of diversity, I enjoyed that he is quite articulate—perhaps the most out of the fourteen interviewees—and confident but not overbearing. We feel that he is proud of his intelligence without the need to flaunt it. He is a true product of a school with high standards.

The tone is calmer but it is not devoid of a sense of humor. The subjects have grown physically, mentally, and emotionally and so they are aware in some way that whatever they have to say might end up being seen or heard all over the world—and the possibility of being judged for it. Apted makes a correct decision to allow the teenagers to evaluate the project. In other words, do they think it is actually worth pursuing? Admittedly, I was a bit taken aback by some of the responses. And yet on another level, I was not. Certain things simply come with time.

A question that comes from the first film is whether the subjects have boyfriends or girlfriends. It is a bright moment because we are allowed to peek into the self-consciousness of the teenagers. To us, it is very amusing to watch them grasping for a “correct” answer or an answer that sounds just about right. In retrospect, when I was at that age, such a question just reeked of awkwardness. Why? Because the answer may not be as simple as a “Yes” or a “No.” Worse, if the answer was a “No,” there was that fear or concern of being judged. We are amused by the way they respond and yet we relate with them without a doubt.

The questions require a bit more thought this time: Do you want to be rich? Do you believe in God? As the teens provide their answers, we cannot help but turn to ourselves and evaluate where we stand. The funny thing about this series is that although each person—or group of persons—is a representative of a certain class, we think we know exactly what they will say. It really is telling how much fictional movies, especially standard Hollywood fares, have influenced our collective unconscious.

The director does an exquisite job selecting clips from the predecessor and using them as reminders as well as comparisons in terms of how the teens were like when they were seven. He knows exactly what to show from the past to get the point across.

“7 Plus Seven” is not only informative but also very entertaining. By the end, I wanted to know more. I was especially interested in Nicholas (later called more commonly as “Nick”). His grandfather and father are farmers. When asked whether he wants to follow in their footsteps, his answer is a quiet yet powerful “No.” Nicholas is interested in physics and chemistry. I wondered if, like myself, he will aspire to become a scientist.

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