Posts Tagged ‘paroxysm’
evolution of in the retelling, the mythologizing, the re-presentation of the inefable: news report from 1974 to the documentary “Man on Wire”
Perhaps the documentary force of this film derives from the fact that it is about such a singular, unique moment – Petit’s 40 minute funambulism between the towers of the World Trade Center. Man on Wire gives us that which should be irretrievable, magicking us into the heart of an act meant to be ephemeral, carried through in order to vanish. We relive the feeling of astonishment we see reflected in the faces of the crowd staring out of the archival footage, their eyes fixed on something they will never see again. Are we touched by our sudden intimacy with a historical event? Only Petit’s act does not seem to participate in history but to stand out, timeless, as a flight into another order of poetic existence that supersedes both the mundane and the collective. The excitement of watching the footage (admirably build up by the filmmaker’s use of the narrative structure of the heist) stems from our witnessing this heart-stopping cessation of time, a more privileged mode of viewing/experience than the opportunity to resurrect the past.
Would Man on Wire be as effective if it were a film rather than a documentary? Apart from the irreplaceable presence of Petit himself, whose voice provides an almost kinetic impulse to the sequentiality of the entire film, a fictional reconstruction of the crucial moment (the wire walking), rather than what we are given, a lingering montage of stills and (frustratingly but concomitantly authentic) distant footage from the ground, would most certainly have broken the spell. After all, the premise of Man on Wire is that it gives us proof of the impossible and therefore accomplishes something of a metaphysical acrobatics itself. What we lose in proximity to the event itself is retrieved in the extensive archival footage of Petit’s rehearsals in the field, surrounded by his accomplices. The time of preparation unlocks the “real thing”, just as the reconstruction of the heist sets us up for the “real thing”, the archival footage, the indexical link to the miraculous.
I used found footage of old aviation daredevil acts provided by Mike Patterson (USC John C. Hench Department of Animation and Digital Arts) for his experimental animation class to make this short. The film presents the human body as an instrument for the enactment of a transcendentalist fantasy that addresses both our desire to free subjectivity from ordinary (bodily) limitations and our fascination with the possibility of our own physical destruction.