Today marks the 13th anniversary of the Twin Towers attacks on September 11th, 2001. This terrible tragedy has shaped our world, for better or for worse. Especially for my generation, this event has profoundly changed the way that we live and think.
As we go throughout the day, thinking about 9/11 and what it means to us and our world, I would like to recommend a movie to watch. Man on Wire is not the first movie that people think about when they think of 9/11, but I think that it is a documentary that is wonderful in helping us cope with the tragedy of that day.
Man on Wire is a documentary of Philippe Petit, a tight rope walker that walked across the Twin Towers in New York City right after they were constructed. It is also one of the most beautiful and (to quote a review) “exhilarating” movies that I have ever seen. The film documents Petit’s preparations for this stunt and eventually completing it.
What makes this movie truly great is the absolute emotional release that is felt when Petit finally completes his walk. It is hard for me to describe what I felt as I viewed the footage of him gracefully walking across a rope between the Twin Towers. I was completely taken by surprise at the sheer emotional impact of this image. I had expected to just be amazed that this stunt was done and then move on, but instead it ended up being hugely emotional experience to view.
I think that this may come from the passion of Petit and the nature of his stunt. As Petit walks across the tight rope, he literally walks into the grasp of death. As he explains in the documentary, a millimeter of error or a split second loss of concentration could send him plummeting to the ground, and to do this stunt a half mile in the air further intensifies the matter. Yet, in the grasp of death we see him beautifully performing tricks and stunts on the tight rope, even teasing the policemen on the roof and looking down at the ground to see his audience. At this point Petit has become completely disconnected from the world. On the rope that he is balancing, Petit has transcended the world become a different sort of person.
Again, it is hard for me to describe exactly the emotional impact of the documentary, but somehow, our human psych is affected by seeing something so beautiful being performed in the grasp of death. I also appreciated this film for showing the Twin Towers in something of a new light. Rather than conjure up images of 9/11, Man On Wire shows the Twin Towers as something beautiful and enigmatic, and I believe does a great service to the memory of this New York landmark.
On 9/11, as we consider the great loss of life and the tragedy that occurred, it is also important for us to remember the found memories that we have of the Twin Towers. They were beautiful pieces of construction and a symbol for a great city. They were even places of great art and courage, as Man on Wire
shows us. By showing us the beauty of the Towers, Man on Wire
helps us heal. Instead of being constantly reminded of death and loss when we see images of the towers, we can be reminded of their greatness and the triumph of humanity that they represented. Just as Petit is able to briefly transcend mortality with his stunt, Man on Wire
allows us to transcend the tragedy of 9/11 and remember a great New York landmark as a place of beauty even as we remember our fallen dead.