The Seven Ages (1905)
This is a series of tableaux by Edwin S. Porter that give a humorous view of the life-cycle and romance of human beings. Each of the ages suggests that love is the driving force of human nature.
The first image we see is “infancy,” in which a small child sits on a high chair crying. Then another child comes into the scene and gives her her bottle, which seems to calm her a bit, then kisses her on the head. The next age is “playmates,” where somewhat older children are sitting under a tree. The girl has a baby doll and the boy tries to kiss her, but she shakes her head and offers him the doll. Eventually, he steals a kiss anyway and she pulls away. The next age is “schoolmates.” Here, the kids are perhaps 12 or older, and the girl is sitting under a tree reading when the boy walks up. She invites him to join her, and he shyly comes over and offers her an apple. She responds by giving him a kiss. The next age is “lovers,” but all we get is a still of two adults kissing. Presumably that scene is lost. Next comes “soldier.” Here a woman walks out onto a rather simplistic set of a veranda in front of a fancy home and sits on a bench to read. A man in what seems to be a Civil War uniform comes up behind her and surprises her. She jumps up and kisses him and then we cut to a close-up of them kissing. The next scene is “the judge,” in which the middle aged couple is in a bourgeois living room, surrounded by their own children, some of whom are almost grown. They send the kids to bed, each with a kiss, and then we cut to a close up of the two of them affectionately pecking one another. Then comes “second childhood,” in which an old couple sits in front of the fire. The man holds a length of yarn while the woman rolls it into a ball. He leans over and kisses her repeatedly, and close-up reveals her smile. The last tableau is labeled “What Age?” and it shows a middle-aged woman dressed as a classic “spinster” with a cat on her lap. She picks up the cat and kisses it.
This movie has a very Nineteenth Century feel to it, with the sense of continuity in life and emphasis on “normal” bourgeois lifestyles. Few people in any era actually wind up marrying the girl/boy next door, living their lives in satisfaction with what is right in front of them, but it seems to reflect a value of that time, and perhaps this one, to idolize such choices. It is interesting the number of close-ups that are used, especially given the furor over a close-up kiss in “The Kiss” just a few years before. The spinster at the end of the movie is more or less the butt of the joke, but at least she seems happy with her kitty.
Director: Edwin S. Porter
Camera: Unknown, possibly Edwin S. Porter
Run time: 5 Min
You can watch it for free: here (no music).