April 13, 2011

man on wire

When Man On Wire was nominated for an Oscar roughly one billionty years ago, we popped it right into our Netflix instant queue. In our quest to see as much nominated material as possible, we got the disc for the Werner Herzog Encounters At the End of the World as well. With the awards telecast looming, and the pressure of having a real, live, Netflix disc in our hands bearing down, we only managed to squeeze in the Herzog. I had the same issue with it that I have with a lot of Herzog's work. His commentary becomes tedious and pretentious, and is overbearing to the subject at hand. Beyond that, I found what should have been engaging subject matter to be boring. Going in to the show, I thought that if that was the documentary winner then the others must have been pretty awful. In the interim, Man On Wire languished in our queue.

Finally, the subject of the incredible feat chronicled in Man On Wire came up during a lunchtime chat at work. I talked about the mind boggling nature of someone stretching a tightrope across the tippy tops of the two towers of the World Trade Center. We discussed all the ways that this feat was amazing and inspiring. Upon my arrival at home, I talked G into watching it.

Indeed, this documentary is magical. Phillipe Petit first thought of his dream before the WTC was even built, after spying a rendering in a magazine. He held onto that dream for years pulling in his friends and lover as accomplices. He pulled off stunts in preparation to the WTC, and practiced, practiced, practiced every detail. His commitment to the pursuit of realizing his dream is inspiring! We definitely should have made it more of a priority to watch. I don't want to give away too much of the film, as there was so much more to it than I could have fathomed. You simply need to see it.

Watching this film brought out so many things. First, I recalled my trip to the WTC fifteen years ago. I was a teenager on a trip at the tail end of my senior year of high school. The World Trade Center was a must see building in New York City. As we entered, I looked up at the impressive height of the two buildings. We took the elevator to the observation deck, constantly clearing our ears all the way up. We chatted with the elevator operator, who had perfected the clearing of his ears after repeated trips up and down. The anticipation of the view was overwhelming. We stepped out and headed to the immense spread of windows looking out over the city and beyond. There were cushy seats on risers where one could relax and take in the breathtaking views. Just before the windows was a railing, and if you were truly brave, you could stand nose-to-glass almost as though hovering above the hustle and bustle. I stood, taking it all in. It was unreal as though I were standing over a miniature replica. I was nearly completely unaware of my immediate surroundings. A dear friend sneaked up behind me and gave me a gentle push. It was not meant to be malicious, but I nearly lost my shit. Here's the thing: I am not afraid of heights, but I am terrified of falling. Although there was plenty to keep me from toppling one hundred meters or so to the ground, I just needed that seed of an idea planted in my head. From that moment on, I was steering clear of the outer perimeter of the building.

We ventured out to the outer observation deck on the very tippy-top of the building. Here it was extremely windy. Fortunately, there was a huge concrete barrier to stand between me and a long plummet to the sidewalk. Yet I couldn't bring myself to look over. While my friends took photographs of every possible view of the city, I sat on a bench. Well, until a really creepy guy sat next to me and started to chat me up. I got up and moved. He followed me. I took a deep breath and met my friends at the wall. I managed to make the most of the situation, perhaps helped by the guy following me. Perhaps safety in numbers spurred me on. I was able to capture photographs from each side of the building before begging my companions to go back inside.

All of that is to say watching this film, recalling just how far above the ground I was once upon a time, was intense. Being barely able to look out the windows after feeling unsteady, all I can say is that Phillipe Petit had huge balls. He didn't just make a run for it across that wire, he danced across. He laid down on the wire. He moved to and fro, toward one tower then the other. He looked straight down, truly acknowledging how far he was from the ground. While the view from atop the WTC was breathtaking, watching this man whom I don't know made it that much more impressive. On top of it, he had this dream that would have withered and died in the heads of the average person. Yet he not only hung onto it, he allowed himself to be immersed in it and allowed it to flourish until it was realized.

Just a little reminder that no matter what the dream, no matter how long it has been since it first sprouted, any dream can be realized.

Posted by raven at 08:31 PM | Comments (0)