Lenka Clayton and James Price’s People In Order: 1. Age is a documentary that takes a look at the wonder that is the aging process. James Price is an artist, a filmmaker and head of Field Studies Ltd, a production company whose aim is to take a closer look at the world we live in. In People In Order, that closer look is targeted at ourselves.
People In Order: 1. Age is the first in a series of shorts commissioned by Channel 4 that asks the question: Can you reveal something about life simply by arranging people according to scales? Whilst the series features people arranged by length of pregnancy, length of relationship and by income, this short arranges people of all shapes and sizes by their age. It’s a simple, yet mightily effective concept and in this film 100 shots feature people arranged in age, from one to one hundred, some stating their age but each banging a drum.
The aging process has always been a fascinating one that photography and film have been able to explore in engaging and genuinely eye opening ways. Whilst recent releases like The Iron Lady and J. Edgar have flaunted their make-up muscles in a bid to show us the aging process in “Oh, aren’t they clever” detail, People In Order goes down the route of the popular Up series in the sense that part of its charm is in witnessing the physical changes as the young, enthusiastic kids at the start of the film slowly make way for balding, wrinkled, (yet still enthusiastic) oldies. Some are bored, some are shy, some clearly enjoy being in front of the camera while others appear to simply enjoy beating the drum to within an inch of its life (I’m looking at you forty-four). Yet as the drum beats roll on and more and more of the films subjects appear sitting down, it slowly dawns that there really is something more rewarding on show that just the pleasures of wrinkle-spotting.
Whether worth returning to for individual highlights like the one year old who decides his toy monkey should sit on the drum before he hits it, or the fifteen you old who shouts like a rock star but is soon undermined by his lack of accuracy with a drumstick, the film does manage to capture tiny, honest flashes of humanness that are made all the more valuable as a result of the lack of screen time each age gets. As the people get bigger and the drum gets smaller, the film ends on a quietly thoughtful note. The one-hundredth bang of the drum features a dear old girl who says the last spoken words of the film, “One hundred. Is that it?”
Having watched an entire life go by in just over three minutes and one-hundred bangs of a drum, you just can’t help but sort of agree with her.