I’ve just watched the most extraordinary film “Man on Wire” about the exploits of the wirewalker Phillipe Petit.
It’s a beautiful film. It has all the tension of a thriller with the poetry of an art house movie and at it’s heart is an amazing story: how in August 1974 Phillipe Petite and a team of his closest friends succeeded in running a wire between the Twin Towers and staged a 45 minute wirewalk half a kilometer above the streets of New York.
Petit had dreamed of such a feat even before the Towers were built and his passion and enthusiasm, his absolute commitment to the dream made it happen.
It reminded me of a conversation I had with Donna Close a while back. Donna had been helping a friend put together the props for a show. The budget was spent long ago, there was only a week to go and a months worth of work to do. I started bemoaning the lack of finance and time that always seems to accompany creative projects but Donna stopped me midflow.
"Don’t you get it" she said, “Of course its not possible, of course we can’t do it in time. That’s what I love about it. It’s an impossible dream. It’s in the gap between the possible and the impossible that the magic happens. That’s what makes great art."
I didn’t argue because I realised she was right.
But I thought about the cost.
The most powerful scene in the film for me is where Petit’s childhood friend and collaborator Jean-Louis reflects on that moment when he finally sees Petit safely balanced on the wire between the towers.
He’s spent 12 hours in the cold night on the top of the North Tower; working under the constant fear of discovery; hauling a steel hawser across the 140 ft gap between the buildings, knowing that even if he succeeds he might be an accomplice to his best friends death.
Can you even begin to imagine how he felt in that moment of release when it was all over, when he could step back from the adrenaline shock and watch as his friend lapped up the media attention.
“Something was broken in our friendship that day” he says and then he starts to cry, the memory still all too real.
People say there is a thin line between creativity and madness. I say creativity is madness. It takes that kind of madness to dream something and then against all odds, to bring it to life.
How far would you go for your impossible dream? And what price would you be prepared to pay?