Pina Bausch was a German dance teacher, choreographer and dancer who died in June of 2009 at the age of 68. Before her death, she was set to collaborate with his friend, the acclaimed director Wim Wenders (Wings of Desire, Paris, Texas) for a biographical documentary. Wenders stopped the project, but Pina’s dancers from the Tanztheater Wuppertal later persuaded him to continue. What came out, two years after Pina’s death, is unique achievement in its own. These dancers eventually made it to Wenders breathtaking ode to Pina Bausch’s life and art. In various outdoor setting and dancing clothes, they construct the legacy of their mentor in movement and testimonies. Pina debuted at the 61st Berlin International Film Festival’s Out of Competition section, and is now being shown in theaters worldwide.
Wenders took advantage of the 3D, a technology often relegated to light blockbusters and thought of as mere gimmick. Pina is a documentary where we hardly see the subject, but her presence is always on screen, resurrected by the gorgeous and breathtaking performances of her dancers. Shot mostly in Wuppertal, Germany, Pina is divided into four segments—La sacre du printemps, Café Mueller, Kontackthof and Vollmond. Intercutting these sections are personal testimonies and interpretations of Bausch’s choreography.
You don’t have to be familiar with Pina Bausch and her work or even an expert in modern dance, which she is credited for influencing. Wenders and the Tanztheater dancers open the world of dance to the audience as freely and generously as a wave of hand.
In Le sacre du printemps, or The Rites of Spring, we see the dancers charting a stage covered almost entirely in peat.
Café Mueller features performances of dancers, in plain or dance clothes, wander about a café, tottering or whizzing past tables and chairs, sometimes tumbling them, often in groups, and sometimes we see only one dancer. The story is about a blind woman finding her way into a café while obstructed by chairs and tables and as other people help or connect with her. The café supposedly conjures a place that Pina Bausch used to frequent as a child.
Pina Bausch has nurtured performers from different generations, as seen in Kontakhof. This segment shows the various skills and styles of dancers as they perform in different locations, which Wim Wenders later weave as one stunning collage. Through the fantastic abilities of the dancers, get to see the breadth of Pina Bausch’s art and the depth of her influence.
There are dance performances staged outdoors. On an island in the middle of busy intersecting roads, we see a male and female dancer in casual dance clothing, performing as though they’re in vast empty space.
The movie’s final chapter, Vollmond, shows us a stage occupied by a huge chunk of rock surrounded by chairs. Dancers trample about a flooded stage until they face the audience at the end.
Wim Wenders, whose last few films did not match his stellar achievements in the 1980s, has given the mass audience a joyous celebration of two art forms—dance and cinema—as well as a moving elegy to his friend Pina Bausch.
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