Man on Wire


L4 Blog 3

Watch the video segment of the documentary, Man on Wire at   Read the article on the blog post, Close Scene Analysis: Man on Wire and find another article about the film on the web. Cite at least once from both articles and discuss two ways in which you feel this film challenges the expected conventions of a documentary.  To review the conventions of a documentary, go to

13 responses

  1. Documentaries are the small pieces of fractions belonging to real life and they generally tell a great story with influincing viewers. One of the goals of the maker of Man On Wire documentary is letting the viewer to be part of philippe’s life while the movie is navigating through his intriguing life story. In the documentary, I liked shifts and camera angles highlighting the emotions and details of subjects. The camera placement was generally cleverly used because camera’s placement broguht a quality to the movie. The acting in impersonating real characters and impersonating real events was successfully managed. Undisputably, someone who watches the first couple of minutes and someone who watches the rest of it will have distinct ideas to talk about the movie, which can be considered as an exhilarating beginning leaving different impressions to the audience

  2. The film ‘Man on Wire’ is one of the most thrilling documentaries I have ever seen. The story is beautiful; to learn about Philippe’s dream and how he conqures it shows the stark reality behind uncomprehenable dreams and how with a simple desire and lust even the most absurd things can can come true or as he says become tangible. The documentary that presents the world with this amazing story however is not the most conventional. The documentary relies on many things that most documentaries and documentarists would not utilize. An example would be how the documentarists takes the accounts of people who were with Philippe and makes use of converse opinions to use these people’s perspectives to build-up this lifelong dream and make the auidence feel that they are there sharing the moment with his companinons however he never makes this event something that it is not but makes it so that the story telling is dynamic and the audience feel like they are in the crowd watching in awe at this man on a wire walking as if he did not have a worry in the world not like someone learning about the event and watching from above but in the crowd.The review ‘Close Scene Analysis: Man on Wire’ makes this point by stating that ‘One of Marsh’s goals was to not romanticize the event but rather tell stories from many different perspectives and use the overlapping accounts and parallel stories to make the story dynamic.’ Another way conventions are breached is by the use of still images in the documentary. Usually people are keen to watch moving images and still images tire and bore us however the documentary is complemented by the use of still imagery and especially when its juxtaposed with the preparations of the walk and interviews. The article stated above also explains this by stating, ‘in this instance it would seem unsatisfactory so the montage of still images seemed to be the way to go. The photographs helped to capture how ephemeral this moment was and how dream like it was and watching it, it almost conjures up visions of some sort of miracle.’ As the article says the use of still photography shows the magical and miracle aspect to this walk. The New York times Review also touches on this aspect of the film by quote, ‘The proof is in the emotions — amusement, amazement, awe — evoked by those images of a tiny human figure balancing above a void.’ The use of still images that would usually distract audiences and have negative impacts on the film as stated before complement and complete the film instead. The directior took a risk by trying the different, the unconventionally or maybe even an avant-garde approach and he was very successful! (Honestly I loved it!)

  3. The second article’s link I have read for my response to this assignment is below. I strongly recommend you to read but you probably did because is is a famous one.

    “One of Marsh’s goals was to not romanticize the event but rather tell stories from many different perspectives and use the overlapping accounts and parallel stories to make the story dynamic. The editing here really lends itself to that as we now move on to an interview of his then-girlfriend who was at the base of towers as she recalls her experience. ” this is from Close Scene Analysis: Man on Fire,

    “Walking between the Twin Towers — the world’s tallest buildings at the time — was only the most dramatic of Petit’s feats to that point. He’d already done essentially the same thing at Notre Dame cathedral, and the harbor bridge in Sydney (where he picked a watch off the wrist of one of the cops who arrested him). ” and this is from the article whose link is written above.

      • (Comment to be continued) I believe this documentary was very interesting as it took into account many aspects of the mans life into consideration though the whole film was about the walk between the twin towers. I liked how there was a build up to the big walk also the tense filled scenes with actors showing what happened again which made the audience relive everything with these actors. Also these scenes served as a way to make the documentary feel more like fiction as it felt liked what happened was surreal.I also liked the director’s idea of making a film about the twin towers and I believe it was a bold step because of the connotation of the twin towers.

        These are my comments on the Man on Wire. I ran out of time so I wasn’t able to complete it on that day.

  4. I haven’t watched many documentaries in my life, so I can’t compare this one to any other or make a strong claim, saying that this is the best documentary that I have ever seen, yet it is sure that it had a very powerful effect on me. l loved how we see Philippe Petit’s childhood pictures right next to the footages from the construction of Twin Towers. It’s as if he is growing up, getting ready to walk on the wire between those towers specifically, it is as if the towers are built for him, for him to make his wish come true. And the framing (the black round frame) while showing scenes from Petit’s childhood gives more depth to the story and makes the scene look more like a part from the past. And I believe there is a significant beauty of seeing pictures of Petit while he is walking on the wire; it is as if we are at that moment, we are a part of that picture, a part from that moment, watching Petit walking with astonishment; showing pictures of those events is definitely more sensual and dramatic. Along with Philippe Petit’s excellent narration of his story (by the way, I adored his energy, his body language; he tells his story so excitedly that it helps you relive all the moments he tell.), learning his story from other people, hearing their share in this act helps you to look from all the different perspectives and that’s how you get a better understanding of the depth of the story. Even though this is a documentary (and whenever I hear the word ‘documentary’, I somehow expect to watch a very monotonous story, with eye level angle and medium shot, just a plain old movie.), the camera angles, shots, proxemics, everything is so wonderfully put together that it is beyond being just a documentary. I loved how in the second part of the documentary (in this video, Petit is filmed from a high angle, we see close up shots of his hands, describing a significant moment, and that mobility of the hands and the mobility of the camera build up the tension and create a wonderfully flowing movie. Absolutely loved it!

  5. Well said, Hande! Documentaries are surely getting much more attention with creative cinematography. Given that there is so little film of the actual event itself, Man on Wire does a supreme job of recreating the event! Glad you enjoyed it.

  6. I believe the experience itself, walking on the wire without a safety net, is thrilling enough to make the documentary an extraordinary one. Unlike many other documentaries exploring history and science, Man on Wire surely makes its audience hold their breath for a while. With the transitions between Petit walking on the wire and the nervous witnesses, the audience, us, easily are able to relate with the people watching Petit.
    The same sense of excitement also multiplied with the music of the documentary. The classical music behind the interviews with Annie while she talks about Petit’s walking between Notre Damme is magical. At the same time after a thrilling rhytmic music, there comes a phase of silence and afterwards a fast background music again. This keeps the excitement and interest in the documentary up.
    The title Man on Wire is referring to the police call as “Man on Wire” while he was walking through the twin towers. At the same it is I believe interntional of James March to not at all mention that the twin towers are now gone. It is a pity that the most important walk, the one between the twin towers doesn’t have a record from then however the reenactment of the walk is meticuliously made and doesn’t stand out at all.
    I also am apalled by the shot variety and how the cinematography beautifully conveys the excitement of the moment. The harmony of the still photos, interviews, scenes from Petit’s early ages and the combination of various shots of the walks is amazing.

  7. For Petit, it is nice to die while you are exercising your passion. Philippe Petit’s wire walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in August of 1974. That was not a possible thought in those days, that’s why it impressed me so much. His girlfriend thought that he had a real rage in his eyes and I think it could be a huge desire and dream which I don’t have in my life. In the beginning he said the object of my dream doesn’t exist yet, also that’s an admirable thing because he had a dream that doesn’t even built. In the documentary, the sound is very useful according to me, because it just fits the theme. When he is on wire, the sound is frightened and exciting, but when he is in love with his girlfriend, the sound makes the audience more happier and calmer. I watched limited number of documentaries but I didn’t see one like that. The sound, the stills make documentary more like series or romantic movie which took my attention the most. The idea of having a desire all of your life and the wire is part of your life, that sounds interesting. When we come to the point that the shots are effective, shots are changing while the feelings change. There are still photographs, telling parallel stories and out of focus scenes. At the beginning of telling his childhood while construction is continue, the childhood photographs are passing through the scene, but I don’t like the style because it is like a slide show. I don’t like seeing that slide show thing in a documentary. However there is no social cause for documentary, I prefer some for more attractive scenes. Still I love the idea of walking on a wire, it is a huge desire.

  8. Documentaries always take my attention as comparing with some other biographical movies. Documentaries always have different contrasts, connections, relations with real life etc. But sometimes the topic of the documentary is boring. This documentary ‘Man on Wire’ has a interesting name and it force you to watch it. The documentary is about a man who does everything to achieve his dream, and he finally did. Just the thought of walking on wire makes me nervous but that man walks backwards, sits and lies on the wire.

    I like the way they use black and white scenes as they want to show the meaning of past. Also the way they divide the scene into two, to show the improvement of both the man and the twin towers. In one side we see the childhood of Petit, as he grows up what he has done, in the other side we see the construction of the twin towers. This gives the meaning that the twin towers and Petit develop together for meet in the end. The connection amazed me, i think it was really clever.

    Also the interviews were really alive, i mean i understand their fear, happiness and anxiety -which they feel years ago- from their body languages and mimics which they use in their speeches.
    In the interview of Petit he says: “it is great for me to die while i’m doing what i love/dream” First this sounds weird to me, I said what kind of a love is this. But as he talks, I understood this is the biggest dream for him. I admire his ambition.

  9. The film ‘Man on Wire’ is one of the most exciting and impressive documentaries I have ever seen. The story of Philippe Petit is inspiring. Learning about his dream and how it becomes real really affected me. Everyone has a success story but somehow witnessing “behind the scenes” of this story made me believe in my own dream. I believe, with this documentary, he proves that everything is possible if you want. Throughout the movie, the director lets the audience to be a part of Philippe Petit’s life.

    One of the scenes that I like the most was where the audience sees construction of Twin Towers and development of Philippe Petit side by side. As he is growing up and his dreams are formed, towers are built for him. Somehow, it shows that towers are built for him to walk between them on a wire. Also, seeing him walking on the wire on the top of Notre Dame Cathedral was really impressive. The shot starts with a lower angled long shot and it gets closer to Philippe. Then the audience sees picture of him walking and lying on the wire. Seeing these images is really intense and dramatic. It shows how big the achievement is.

    “One of Marsh’s goals was to not romanticize the event but rather tell stories from many different perspectives and use the overlapping accounts and parallel stories to make the story dynamic.” As it is mentioned in the article, “Close Scene Analysis: Man on Fire”, director doesn’t loose the audience’s attention throughout the movie by using different characters and their point of view on the events.

    I think the dream and the experience are thrilling enough to make the audience watch the documentary but with the camera angles, proxemics, shots etc. the movie becomes more extraordinary and enjoyable.

  10. I was truly awed by this documentary, and not just because it tells the story of Philippe Petit, a man who defies all odds, but also because of the mosaic of still photographs, interviews and footages of reenactments that comprise the documentary. Like most of my friends, I was particularly impressed with Marsh’s usage of still photographs. Audiences are usually more entranced by real-life footage, which captures the action, but Marsh’s way of slowly zooming in or out of Philippe’s photographs was even more captivating and amazing than any reenactment could be. Why? Well, the zooms offered the audience enough time to comprehend the scope of what Philippe was attempting. Most of the time, the stills opened with Philippe’s face, and then slowly zoomed out to reveal the background and show what he was attempting. This method was extremely successful in inspiring shock, incredulity, amazement and awe. My reactions were heightened and my interest in the film was rejuvenated whenever the wire on which Philippe walked was invisible. It truly seemed as if he was walking on thin air, defying the laws of gravity. Moreover, when I read “It was a perfect juxtaposition between Petit’s idealist artistry and the towers, which represented the financial and capitalist center of the world.” on the article “Close Scene Analysis: Man on Wire”, I comprehended one of the reasons why Philippe’s was so determined to walk between the Twin Towers. I suppose that in doing so, he believed that he would be showing the capitalist world that there is more to life than wealth, money and consumerism. Somethings are not done for profit; and Philippe Petit most certainly did not have profit in mind when attempting this breathtaking task. I also think that all the stills and reenactments, which depicted the unbelievable, were afforded a greater sense of reality with the addition of voiceover narrations. The emotions of the individuals who were involved in Philippe’s preparations for his performances were palpable whenever they spoke, and the voiceover narrations made it easier for the audience to accept the enthralling and incredible visuals of this documentary. An article called “Walking on Air: ‘Man on Wire’ Presents Petit’s Terrific Tale”, quotes Philippe’s words: “I cannot just calmly recall the adventure. I have to relive it truly.”. Hence, this documentary has allowed audiences to live those moments of triumph with him.

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