The movie follows the preparations for the stunt, and of course the walk itself. But it also dissects Petit’s character and his selfishness, which ultimately destroys his friendships with the people around him, who helped him stage all this.
It’s an extraordinary documentary, not only capturing the beauty of the walk itself, but also the surrounding people perfectly, making us feel like we were there ourselves.
James Marsh does a wonderful job, combining (home) videos with photos and interviews. He manages to sketch characters with a few sentences they speak themselves and gives us a profound look into Petit’s head. A look which is not alway positive, but always infused with awe.
Philippe Petit himself seems to be a bit of a stereotype in being extraordinary. He’s a selfish asshole, but he’s fascinating. And something tells me that if he wasn’t that selfish, he never would have succeeded with his plan. He’s willing to risk it all to chase a fantasy, which is equally inspiring and terrifying. And in the end, he does pay for it, though I’m not sure that he sees it that way.
Petit is a performer with every fibre of his being. Not only the tightrope walk, also the way he tells the story in the documentary make that much obvious. He has a wonderful lyrical way with words (and I so want to read his book), but what is more important is that he manages to pull you along. When he’s hiding from the guard, you hide with him. When he’s celebrating a success, you celebrate with him. And when he’s finally on the rope, you walk with him.
At the same time, the interview with his friends, who helped stage the whole thing, are a important counterpoint to Petit’s narrative. Especially Annie Alix and Jean-Louis Blondeau (who has wonderful photographies up here) proved very important in that regard.
Summarising, it was not only a wonderful documentary, but also an amazing story. A should-see for everyone.