I have always been an admirer of the work of German choreographer Pina Bausch. Wim Wenders was always going to make a film with her but Bausch suddenly died in 2009 before filming could have started.
Wenders had been looking for decades for the format or medium in which he could fully convey what Bausch had to offer with her quirky and uniquely expressive blend of dance, movement and theatre. Finally 3D arrived and became developed beyond what an original prototype could have delivered and with it the right medium for the film has also arrived, one that would allow Wenders to tear down the ‘invisible wall’ between dancers and viewers that normal film presents.
It took 2 years for the film maker and the 40 or so dancers of Bausch’s company to render the choreographer’s work onto 3D film and the result is simply amazing. In fact this is the first ever art film, including dance, to be presented in 3D and it suits beautifully and without gimmicks. You get the raw (barely) mediated material.
‘Pina’ the film premiered at the Berlin Film Festival a few months ago and last Sunday it also premiered at the Opera House in Sydney where it was the closing night film of the German Film Festival.
I was mesmerised by the richness of the experience, one that truly probed into the depth of human experience and has done so mostly without words, which is an integral part of Bausch’s philosophy. She worked for decades with dancers to establish a new language of movement and theatre that reached beyond the usual aesthetics and athletics of dance (she doesn’t use ‘average’ body types and dancers dance themselves), interrogated the authentic human experience of the hand picked dance artists of the company and distilled it all into a form that grapples with the elementary aspects of our shared humanity.
The film is mostly dance-movement-theatre but there are also snippets of Pina Bausch in her studio and the dancers reveal in short clips some of their deepest connections to Pina, to her work and through both of them to the world and themselves. Wenders has achieved a wonderful combination of letting the work speak for itself while also giving extra snippets of information from the depth of the dancers’ own experience in order to illuminate the whole, especially for newcomers.
It was filmed in and around Wupperthal where the company was based and populates the most amazing scenes with expression, movement and meaning, from mines to industrial landscapes to forests to a stage filled with water.
‘Pina’ not only honours an amazing artist but gifts viewers with an astonishing artistic experience. Because of the new 3D cinematic infrastructure this film should be able to get at least a limited release and it is worth seeing by all who want to contemplate and ponder our shared human condition and to those willing to venture into a new unique territory that rewards as much as it challenges.