Friday, 22 July 2011

Man on Wire

2008 by James Marsh - British Documentary

I first heard about Philippe Petit, I think, during a school quiz competition. I was supposed to answer what that photograph - a man walking on a rope between two towers - was about and I didnt know. But later I was horrified to know about the passion of these world famous French man, walk on a wire between any tall structures. This is something which is scaringly beautiful, but impossible, for ordinary humans. I would not do that even in my dreams as I have a problem with heights, depending on who I am with. If the person who is near me is really afraid at that height, I will look brave probably, but alone I am scared of heights. Well, not for Petit, the man who doesnt just walk on wires, but dance on wires.

Philippe was quite into wire walking, but he stunned France when he walked the towers of the Notradame church, one fine morning. Then he did the same at Sydney, walking between the two pylons of the Sydney Harbour bridge. But Philippe's dream was to walk the Twin Towers of the WTC, which was then the tallest in the world. 

Man on Wire is a documentary, but for me it felt nearly like a movie. A beautiful experience. We hear directly from Philippe and his close friends, who all had to take so much of effort to sneak into the two towers, rigging the wire between and then finally walk, a walk of 61 metres at a height of 417 metres. Philippe was nervous about the walk in the beginning but soon his friends saw him smiling and he did all on the wire, for what he is famous for, sitting, lying down, saluting everything in a spell binding performance of about 45 minutes and then was arrested by the Police, like always.

But it was his walk (on 7 Aug, '74), according to many, which brought world wide fame to the WTC. Till then they were finding it difficult to even rent out office spaces in the building, which many in America thought were ugly. It is interesting and gives a lot of insight to American thoughts, when Philippe says after such an incredible feat, the only question the American system/people/media had to ask him was Why - why did you do this. And the police took him to a Psychiatrist after the arrest - this was the most funny part of this movie.

While there were breath taking videos of Philippe's walks at the Notredame and Sydney, only photographs were available for his twin tower walk, is the only negative for this stunning documentary. Not the fault of the movie actually. The person who was supposed to shoot, had completely forgotten his job as he was exhausted already.

The sad part of the movie was that immediately after the walk Annie, his girl friend, who had a real passion in following and supporting Philippe from his teenage days, walked out of his life. Out of the police station, on that day, Philippe chose to seek some pleasure with a female fan who was waiting for him to get out of the police station. When Annie talks about Philippe, through out this movie, I always felt she must be with him even now as we could see her love and affection for the man. Well it is not and we realise this only towards the end.

A beautiful documentary for sure. All the more because of the charming talks by Phillippe himself with all his French accents and mannerisms. The man who says, 'if I fail, what a beautiful death it would be, dying while trying my passion'. Beautiful. Actually it is more of a heist movie than a documentary.