Michael Apted: a vital and dignified director who understood how class shapes us all

Apted made his name with the brilliant Up TV series that examined people’s lives every seven years, before going on to become a film-maker of distinction, whose influence cannot be understated

Michael Apted, who has died aged 79, was a British movie director who – like Ken Loach and Ken Russell – earned his stripes working on TV. But it was his destiny to help create an epic ongoing masterpiece for the small screen with truly cinematic scope and beyond: current-affairs television which had the scale of cinema, combined with the Mass Observation Project and the Roman census.

Granada Television’s Seven Up! from 1964, was, to quote a comedy of the era, not so much a programme, more a way of life. It took 14 British children at the Jesuit age of seven (that is, the age at which the Jesuits’ St Ignatius of Loyola famously said he could “show you the man” if schooled early enough) and interviewed them about their lives and opinions – seven from a working-class background and seven from a posher caste. Then it was updated every seven years, finally spanning 56 years.

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