Man on Wire is a story about the courage to take risks and do something unique that defies any common acceptance. It’s the story of Philippe Petit, a French high-wire artist who transformed fear and risk into challenge and in 1974 he danced on a wire tied between the two World Trade Center Towers, 417 meters (1368ft) high from the ground.
Directed by James Marsh (Project Nim, 2011) and narrated by Philippe Petit himself (who also wrote an autobiography), this documentary is captivating simply because Petit’s story is so unusual. But that’s not all it is. Mixing archive footage, pictures, some re-enacting and interviews with Petit and the close friends who helped him from the very beginning to the WTC towers climax moment, Man on Wire is ultimately an inspiring story about the courage to be free and live life the way you want to live it.
Something that stood in my mind is that after Petit ‘conquered’ the WTC towers, everybody wanted to know why he did that. “What a practical question!” he said intrigued. People need an answer to the question “why” related to most things that happen to them and around them. But for Philippe Petit there was no why. That was simply what he did, the way he was, the way he lived. Pushing the challenge higher, doing something unusual and aesthetically beautiful. Walking on a tight line between his amazing experience and death.
Petit’s courage is admirable. But unfortunately there was no price he didn’t wish to pay to fulfill his dreams. And his success had an important price. I think it’s only fair to say that while Petit has been attracting a lot of attention to himself only, his plans could have never succeeded without the help of his friends. However – we don’t fully understand why from the documentary, but can only guess – he ends up losing most of his friendships.
“To me, its really so simple, that life should be lived on the edge. You have to exercise rebellion. To refuse to tape yourself to the rules, to refuse your own success, to refuse to repeat yourself, to see every day, every year, every idea as a true challenge. Then you will live your life on the tightrope”. (Philippe Petit)