August 14, 2008
Man on Wire
My wife and I recently went to see this VERY intriguing documentary as part of our 10th anniversary weekend getaway.
Man on Wire is a documentary that captures a criminal act performed on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. A group of foreigners engage in months of planning, fake IDs, physical training, and observation of security practices to stage their attack. However, the culmination of their efforts is not an explosion resulting in death, but rather an act of artistry resulting in joy. Philippe Petit walks between the roofs of the Twin Towers on a tight rope.
Even though Petit performed his rope walking stunt some 34 years ago, I don't think the film would have carried the same power before September 11, 2001. To the film's great credit, the ultimate demise of the towers is never mentioned. Yet, every time footage is shown with an airplane near the towers we are reminded of the diametrically opposed conspiracies that occurred in 1974 and 2001. The archival footage of the construction of the towers shows huge skeletal girders being pieced together, girders that we've seen only as the backdrops of firefighters' struggles to find skeletal remains. And in the construction of both the building and this strange dream of Petit's the sentiment is "Look what humans can do!" instead of the "Look what humans have done" that would be cried 27 years later.
There is something so hopeful and pure about the film. The dream of this half-crazed, half-genius tightrope walker is infectious. Everyone he meets is excited about his idea and willing to risk their jobs, incarceration and even their lives in support of it.
There are in the film, a few sad notes that my heart immediately understood and my head is still catching up with. Those involved in that act seem to point to it as a true, pure thing that they've been a part of. And there seemed more than a little regret that it might have been the only such event in their lives.
I highly recommend the film. It's suspenseful, funny, joyful, and inspiring.
When finally arrested, Petit is asked by the press why he would do such a thing. He looks at them puzzled and says, "There is no why."
Next on my list: My Kid Could Paint That