Wednesday, December 14, 2011
#256: Man On Wire
Man on Wire is a gripping documentary about one man's obsession with literally walking the thin line. Philippe Petit is a man who has over the years built a reputation from rope-walking on great heights. The film in particular deals with Petit's clandestine wire-walk between the Twin Towers of WTC and derives its source material from the book 'To Reach the Clouds' that Petit wrote capturing his adventures over the years.
There is no doubt that Man on Wire is an interesting story to tell and it must've taken some deliberation to decide whether a documentary was the best way to tell Petit's story. The movie which eventually won the best documentary honors at the Academy Awards works cinematically even in a documentary format because it is singularly and consistently about one mad pursuit. Sometimes it seems unnatural that someone would go to such great lengths to do what the protagonist does but that's exactly what makes the film an engrossing watch. The narrative is peppered with multiple interviews of Petit's friends and well-wishers interspersed with some beautiful still photographs. At little under 90 munutes, these devices work well cohesively to tell an unconventional story. The other parallel track about Man on Wire that's as interesting as the chase for the top of the summit is the personal connections and stories that gives the storytelling an added dimension. The nervous but energetic narration by Petit himself succeeds in capturing much of the drama preceding the climax.
Director James Marsh employs a Zen-like background score by Michael Nyman and a similar minimalistic photography by Igor Martinovic complements the mood of the film. But at the end of it, most of the film's life is derived from Petit himself and his incredible passion for what he loves. Released seven years after the WTC crash, the film also has a fine sub-text of the WTC towers themselves that are as much of a part of the story as the protagonist himself. All in all, Man on Wire is a dish served hot and made so well you can't help but go for a second round.