Wim Wenders originally proposed the idea of making a film with dance choreographer Pina Bausch to her a quarter of a century ago. He told her it was an idea that they had to make; his only problem was he didn’t know how to film it, though he knew it required a special approach. It took Wenders until 2007 when upon seeing U2 3D at Cannes he recognised the technique he had been looking for all along. He called Pina and told her that he had realised how to make the film and they set the ball rolling for the production, an art house dance film in 3D.
Tragically, just as Wenders, Pina and their crew were beginning production Pina was diagnosed with cancer and within a short time her condition worsened and she passed away. Leaving cast and crew devastated they halted production. Then came the realisation that they must reinterpret the project, this time as a tribute to Pina and her work. The result is a very personal goodbye to an extraordinary choreographer and as we learn an extraordinary person as well.
The film is structured around spectacular dance performances, juxtaposed with interview material with Pina’s dancers. Wenders had each dancer record a piece of speech in which they describe how Pina influenced them. Rather than using a conventional interview technique, Wenders plays back the audio to the dancers and then films them, as they listen to their own reflections on the late choreographer. This technique gives the interviews a poetic quality that juxtaposes appropriately with Pina’s unique and emotional choreography.
From the interviews we get a sense of the challenge and the liberation that Pina brought to her dance troupe. It is clearly evident that this is a quality unique to Pina. The dance performances confirm this. At times Pina’s unique form of choreography provoke the audience to question whether what they are seeing is strictly dance; however no matter what it is, it is evidentially powerful. Wenders’ approach to filming Pina’s choreography emphasises the poetry of the dance, as well as the sometimes gruelling, sometimes funny expressions created by the movements. The two artists come together perfectly.
The structure of Pina may at times prove difficult for some viewers; it feels closer to a letter than a story. For this reason it is important to view this film as a message from close friends, as they say goodbye to someone who touched them deeply. Join them in this and Pina will no doubt be a powerful experience.
By TOM COTTEY