Wim Wender's Pina


18 Monday 18th April 2011

Pina’s sudden death in 2009 happened during joint preparations with Wim Wenders for shooting which resulting in Wim re-thinking his original plan of making a film with and about Pina Bausch. Eventually after a period of mourning and reflection he decided to make a film for Pina Bauch, PINA.

In PINA, Wim Wenders mission is to take the audience on a sensory journey into the dance theatre world of Pina Baush’s company, Tanztheatre Wuppertal. Like her work, words throughout this film are minimal and rather we are presented with long beautifully filmed sections of her shows Café Muller, Le Sacre du printemps, Vollmond and Kontakhof interspersed with interviews and dancing memoirs by members of Tanztheatre Wuppertal.

I am an avid Pina Bausch fan and having seen her work live on many occasions, (including one of her last performances in Café Muller) I have been blown away each time by her original, moving, heartbreaking and extremely beautiful choreography. Watching PINA in a cold and dark emotionless cinema I quickly realised how important it is to see her work live. Pina choreographed for the stage not for the screen. Although it is brilliant to have a clear documentation of her work, which is filmed skilfully in Wenders classically slow, real time style, I found it depressing that for many people this would be the first time they would experience Pina Bausch’s work. No offence to Wim, but the energy, composition and the pure life changing emotion through movement just simply doesn’t transfer in PINA and the 3D element added nothing for me but a headache.

The individual danced memories of Pina from the company I found even more distressing. I think Wim’s intention here was to give the audience an insight into Pina Bausch’s precise, critical and loving personality, without using words. A great idea in principal but unfortunately these solos which were performed in and around Wuppertal where the company lived and worked, mainly came across as badly composed, predictable and repetitive. Although poetic and dreamlike at times, I found these overall embarrassingly cringe worthy. I put this down mainly to the setting. By placing her dancers in site-specific locations it dawned on me how important space and theatrical framing is in relation to her work. She brought nature into the theatre, she bought life, death, institution, the whole world in, but never to my knowledge did she take dance out of the ‘conventional’ theatre space and into the real world. In a very Brechtian way Pina was constantly reminding us of where we are, not trying to take us into another world but reminding us of our present one, of the theatre, and the performers would always have a very real, immediate interactive nature with the audience. Although Wim has tried unfortunately theatrical interaction is impossible to re-create on screen, even with 3D invention.

I don’t want to totally slate this film as I think it is definitely worth a watch. There are dynamic and moving moments and Wim Wenders’ sense of time, space and emotion captures Pina Bauch’s secretive and closed character in an intriguing and loving way. What really becomes apparent is the immense sadness surrounding the death of this genius whose unique style and originality will clearly be well missed by many.

I advise going with the knowledge that if you saw Pina Bauch’s performances live they would be 1000 times better and more effecting.

PINA is released this week on 22 April

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