49 Up is the latest in a series of documentaries, most directed by Michael Apted, which chronicle the lives of a number of Britons at seven-year intervals, starting when they were seven years old.
Those of you who haven't seen the series definitely should -- they are worthy films. However, I am struck at how much darker the movies are getting. 7 Up was meant to be an exploration of class issues. By the time they got to 28 Up, the films had turned into a meditation on the eddies and flows of life and fate; one could celebrate the victories and grieve the failures of the protagonists. But by now, the movie seems like a mass performance of Krapp's Last Tape. Even the happy, well-adjusted subjects seemed tortured by the documentary process. It's become quite apparent: confronting middle-aged people with the dreams of their youth is an exquisite form of sadism.