Review by Willard Manus
Wim Wenders' latest film, PINA, is a remarkable tribute to the famous German choreographer, Pina Bausch, who died suddenly and tragically in 2009. Wenders and Bausch had long yearned to collaborate on a dance film, but it wasn't until the recent refinement of 3D technology (U2-3D, Avatar) that Wenders felt he could do justice to his friend's work.
In early 2009, Wenders and Bausch began pre-production work on the film; after six months of intensive planning and only two days before the first 3D rehearsal shoot, the unthinkable happened. Bausch's abrupt death seemed to spell the end of the project, but after a period of mourning Wenders, urged on by Bausch's Tanztheater Wuppertal dancers and staff, decided to make the film without the choreographer's help.
"We never shot anything together," said Wenders in an interview. "I never got the chance to have her in front of the camera. My wife Donata took pictures of her, that's all. But Pina is still in the movie. There are new possibilities to include documentary material and two-dimensional images into a 3D project."
Because PINA is not only the first 3D dance movie but one of the first European 3D movies ever, Wenders faced daunting technical challenges. For help with 3D image composition, he brought in a pioneer in stereography, Alain Derobe. The latter developed a special 3D rig mounted on a crane. "To create the depth of the room, it was very important to stay close to the dancers and follow them. We did this by positioning the cameras between the dancers. The camera literally dances with them."
Derobe was supported by 3D supervisor Francois Garnier, who also made important contributions to the film. "We cannot stop a dancer in short sequences, one must shoot in longer sequences. The challenge was to always stay close by with the camera, although the dancer moves...Because dance is by nature a movement in space, there is no better method than 3D technology to show dance. 3D has all the space, all the action, and all the movement to offer. The sense of physical sensation is much more powerful than any intellectual reflection. With 3D, cinema enters a new level."
Wenders takes the audience deep into the heart of Bausch's company, showing it at work in the rehearsal room, then in various performance spaces. Excerpts from four wellknown Bausch creations are featured: Cafe Muller, Le Sacre du Printemps, Vollmond and Kontakthof. The first three were shot before an audience at the Tanztheater; Kontakthof was filmed in an empty auditorium with three alternating casts comprised of Bausch's multi-ethnic dancers, a group of senior citizens, then a bunch of teenagers. The solo sequences were shot in site-specific locales: industrial landscapes, a waterfall, a street beneath Wuppertal's monorail.
Wenders brought intimate touches to the film, such as posing dancers and asking them to talk about Bausch. He also used 2D archival footage (some of it black and white) to good advantage. All in all, Wenders has done Bausch proud. His deeply-felt portrait of her is a generous gift to the world--and a joy to see.