Australian Council on Children and the Media

Man on Wire

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Short takes

Lacks interest under 8, PG to 13 (Dangerous stunts, nudity and sexual references)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Man on Wire
  • a review of Man on Wire completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 23 October 2008.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Not recommended due to lack of interest, dangerous stunts, nudity and sexual activity.
Children aged 8-13 Parental guidance recommended due to dangerous stunts, nudity and sexual activity
Children over the age of 13 OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Man on Wire
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Brief nudity and sexual references
Length 94 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Man on Wire tells the story of how Philippe Petit planned and carried out what has been called the greatest artistic crime of the twentieth century. On August 7th, 1974 Philippe Petit strung a 200 foot tightrope wire 450 meters above the ground between Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre and walked across it, nine times.
Through interviews and re-enactment, the film depicts the relationships between Philippe and his then girl friend Annie Allix, close friend Jean-Louise Blondeau and co-conspirators David Forman, Barry Greenhouse, Jim Moore and Alan Welner. The film shows archival footage of Philippe walking between the spires of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and between the pylons of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Philippe and his co-conspirators descibe how they spied for weeks on the Twin Towers, tricked their way in using fake ID cards and hauled nearly one ton of equipment to the top floor.
The film contains no live footage of the walk or re-enactment of it, with the event represented through still images and commentary by Philippe and the team members. Following the walk Philippe is arrested, taken in for psychiatric evaluation and then released. The media hail Philippe a hero and we hear accounts from eyewitnesses telling how watching Philippe walk the wire was a once in a lifetime gift. The film ends with the main characters discussing how both the event itself and the resulting fame caused the breakdown of friendships and relationships.  

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Dangerous stunts, illegal activity, relationship breakdown

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • Philippe is seen being arrested and taken away in handcuffs. Philippe talks about fearing that he would fall down stairs and break his neck after being arrested and lead away by the police.
  • Brief images of a black and white 1940’s film of gangsters robbing a bank with police shooting at the escaping bank-robbers.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this film.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this film.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this film.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this film.

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

There are a couple of mild sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Philippe talks about how after he was released by the police, a woman approached him and offered to be the first to “celebrate” with him. 
  • Philippe’s girlfriend talks about Philippe giving her flowers and love letters and about dating Philippe. 

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • A brief image of Philippe and a woman in a hotel room naked, the woman from the front and Philippe from behind. We see them running around a bed and the woman lying naked on top of the bed. 

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • a brief image of a man smoking a cigarette.
  • A man during an interview talks about how he smoked pot (cannabis) everyday for thirty five years, and that he was probably under the influence of the drug while he was assisting Philippe in his tightrope attempt.  

Coarse language

None of concern

In a nutshell

Man on Wire is a documentary containing real and re-enacted footage. It is an entertaining and artistic adventure suited to a wide audience.
The main message from this movie is that if you really want to achieve something, nothing is impossible.
Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • trust
  • determination, perseverance and commitment
  • concentration

Parents may also wish to discuss with their children the real life dangers and consequences of Philippe’s actions, for example

  • Philippe believed that his attempt to walk a wire between the Twin Towers was a stunt worth dying for. Is any adventure worth dying for?
  • Philippe intentionally committed a number of crimes in order to carry out his stunt. Were these crimes that he should have been punished for? Did the end results justify the crime? Should someone like Philippe be exempt from the law? 

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