Art, Architecture and Visual Culture
Several critics have noted that longitudinal documentary kinship with soap opera is usually in the form of a general reference to their status as 'never ending stories' rather than to any deeper structural affinity. The long doc work includes Michael Apted's Seven Up films, Winifred and Barbara Junge's The Children of Golzow and Swedish director Rainer Hartleb's The Children of Jordbrö. Both long docs and soaps rely on viewers being able to form relatively strong empathic bonds with a number of central characters. Just like producers of television soaps, long doc filmmakers become sensitively attuned to the potential that lies in long docs' serial mode of presentation. Both long docs and soaps are classic examples of an open form of narrative that addresses its audience in a markedly different manner from 'closed' narrative forms.
Making a longitudinal documentary has certain points in common with ethnographic filmmaking. Producers of long docs are more concerned with quietly tracing and chronicling the lives of others in a way calculated to elicit a more reflective and even at times philosophical response from the audience. Viewed in its entirety, The Children of Golzowhas has stronger claim than any of its counterparts to have performed a chronicling function. Operating in the longitudinal mode allows for several different approaches to filming, dependent on the medium in which the filmmaker is working, on the wishes or policies of the funding agent and on particular design features incorporated into the original project. Any discussion about the rival merits of fixed interval and arrhythmic approaches also has to take into account the role of the respective sponsoring institution.
This chapter provides short overviews of the longitudinal documentary works that will be the subject of more extensive analysis. The long doc work includes Michael Apted's Seven Up films, Winifred and Barbara Junge's The Children of Golzow and Swedish director Rainer Hartleb's The Children of Jordbrö. The Seven Up series had its origins in May 1964 when Granada Television transmitted a one-off 'special' in their World in Action series. Just like Apted's Seven Up series, Winfried and Junge's The Children of Golzow can also lay some claim to being a historically significant chronicle of the times. The series traces the lives of a group of citizens of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) who were born in the 1950s and grew up in the small town of Golzow.
This book is a study of documentary series such as Michael Apted's world-famous Seven Up films that set out to trace the life-journeys of individuals from their earliest schooldays till they are fully grown adults. In addition to Seven Up, the book provides extended accounts of the two other best known longitudinal series to have been produced in the last three or four decades. It includes Winifred and Barbara Junge's The Children of Golzow and Swedish director Rainer Hartleb's The Children of Jordbro. The book first examines some of the principal generic features of long docs and considers the highly significant role that particular institutions have had on their production, promotion and dissemination. It then explores a study of how the individual works originated, with a special emphasis on the nurturing role of particular institutions. The book also explores the affinities that long docs have with soap opera texts, which have similar aspirations to neverendingness. Both long docs and soaps rely on an episodic mode of delivery and both seek to persuade their audience that they are attempting to chronicle real-time developments. Finally, the book explores the variety of ways in which long doc filmmakers contrive to bring their work to a satisfactory conclusion.
This chapter focuses on longitudinal documentary works, including Michael Apted's Seven Up films, Winifred and Barbara Junge's The Children of Golzow and Swedish director Rainer Hartleb's The Children of Jordbrö. It addresses that in what ways do filmmakers begin to contemplate the prospect of terminating these works. The chapter also addresses role of the sponsoring agency or broadcasting institution in deciding how and when a long doc should be terminated. It explores the ways in which viewers are actively prepared for being separated from subjects with whom they may have developed especially close relationships over the years. For students of longitudinal documentary, doubtless the most significant of the post-Wende films and possibly of the whole Golzow cycle is Screenplay: The Times. With the possible exception of Screenplay, all the Golzow films the Junges produced in the post-Wende period are biographical in their approach.