In the confined spaces of an East London tower block, filmmaker Marc Isaac decides to install himself in an apartment block lift and film the residents entering and leaving the lift. The simplicity of this idea not only shows the reaction of the residents but eventually they begin to answer his peculiar philological and mythology questions. Once the suspicions of wry smiles and awkward silences disappear, the residents begin to reveal their life stories. We hear the most humorous of stories but at the same time the utmost moving and morbidly sad ones. Trapped in the restrained area in a short period of time, Marc Isaac’s Lift (2001) is a short film documentary that not only shows a rich variety of people that reveal the things that matter to them most.
In the cramped and catastrophic space of the lift, Mark and the resident first appear to be quite distant. However, as the resident and even the viewer become curious about what Mark is doing, the documentary somehow changes from focusing on Mark to the residents. Before you know it we become quite fascinated about the residents and their lives. The documentary explores the modern British residents from a variety of demographics. From young bachelors to married old couples, nuns to drunks and from seemingly quite solace men to loudmouth grannies. In just under a minute for each course, we gain little information about the stranger from questions like “What did you dream about last night?” to “What is your earliest childhood memory?”
Everyone has a different perception on the meaning of life, love, religion and death, but to hear the strangers answer can be either uplifting or morbid. The questions asked from the residents begin to show the characteristics of a passive or a belligerent person. However, from previous or upcoming questions we can see what happened to them in their life that shaped them to become this person. In the few seconds we have with these people from the floor they got on to the ground floor, Isaac manages to get complete strangers to open up to him. Isaac demonstrates by having an engrossing concept and using the most simplest of methods to film it, he achieved a rare uniqueness that documentary filmmakers dream of, having their interviewees completely open up to them. One particularly striking resident is a man who appears to be so imperceptible and too reluctant to hold any discussion with Isaac. His fondest childhood memory is “winning a recorder competition as the only boy”. However this forgettable man has one of the most unforgettable stories in the documentary.