I saw an incredibly inspiring film today at the Landmark Sunshine called Man on Wire about wire-walker and street performer, Philipe Petit. It was great watching this one in New York City. It recounts the planning and execution of his spectacular 45-minute walk between the Twin Towers in 1974. You’ve probably heard about him doing that and thought, “ok, so he snuck in and shot a rope across and did some walking. So what?”
But it’s so much more than that.
He read about the towers being built when he was 17 and sitting in a dentist’s office in France. In a flash came the idea to walk across them. He wasn’t even a tightrope walker at this point.
He trained, he planned, he enlisted the aid of others who believed in this idea. He made several trips to the buildings to look at them. They invented so many things to achieve the rigging through trial and error until they figured out how they would make it work. He drew pictures so he could see how it might look. They made models. They rigged a wire in his garden in France and would bounce him the way it might happen as he went across. Not to mention how they had to disguise themselves and pass themselves off as workmen or businessmen.
There were so many ways this could go wrong. Not just getting up to the top of the building but in the walk itself if it happened. There was all this improv and hide and seek things they did to avoid the security there. He said the act of the walk is “framed by death” so if one loses concentration or takes a wrong step….
The movie is a testament to the creation of a piece of art. The risk and the adventure. Taking an idea for something that doesn’t exist and making it happen to share the wonder of it with others who wouldn’t or couldn’t do the same.
This act stands as evidence that humans can make miracles happen.
The film never mentions 9/11. It was nice to see footage of New Yorkers excited about things happening around the World Trade Center. And it was kept entertaining by Petit’s storytelling combined with accounts of all the major players. After the movie I did a much safer version of walking over New York and hoofed it across the Williamsburg Bridge thinking about what inspiring act I could give to others. Here’s the trailer for your enjoyment.