“Pina” is a documentary tribute to German choreographer Pina Bausch and directed by German film maker Wim Wenders (Buena Vista Social Club). Bausch and Wenders had intended to create a 3D film about Bausch’s career when she suddenly died in 2009. Wenders and Bausch’s own company of dancers created, instead, a beautiful retrospective of Bausch’s choreography, a love letter, and a visual testament to her genius.
Her dancers are indefatigable: they throwing themselves forcefully into the movements, fearlessly slamming into the ground. Or, they lean calmly into gravity knowing they will be protected by another dancer. Or, they travel, eyes closed, through a room filled with wooden chairs without hesitation because other dancers are sweeping the chairs aside as they approach. And finally, they dance under and with water falling from a huge onstage rock. Bausch created landscapes and textual contexts for her dancers. She filled the stage with dirt and had her dancer luxuriate in it. In one of her most famous pieces, she filled the stage with flowers. Damn, we’re going to miss her. This film will go a long way towards keeping her spirit alive.
By the by: Dance and 3D film are an exciting match. Much of what is interesting in dance involves the interrelationships of the dancers, their placement on stage, and the geometric patterns they make or travel through. Film flattens those parts of the choreography; 3D brings them back and brings the live performance experience to entirely new audiences.
P.S. Though nominated for an Academy Award for some documentary category or other, “Pina” did not win.