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Posted on 2/04/13 10:50 AM
while the production value of "pina" is certainly outstanding and the 3D version a feast for your eyes - the content of the movie does not do the person nor her work much justice.
instead, where the late choreographer was a lifelong 'miner' of truth and raw emotions, wenders remains on the surface seemingly unable to fathom the depth of pina bausch.
in order to understand where the movie falls short, one has to know her work. also - ideally - the performances should be seen in their entirety. obviously, this is not possible in this case and, out of many, wenders draws from 4 productions: le sacre du printemps (which i believe to be a less accessible piece), café müller (an early work), vollmond (a more recent production) & kontakthof (a piece which i believe is originally divided in two different and separate performances, and conceived as workshops - one inviting "teenagers age 14 and up" to participate, the other inviting "ladies and gentlemen age 65 and up").
to someone completely unfamiliar with her work it should be said that pina bausch's oeuvre does not revolutionize dance through the inventions of moves or outstanding physical achievements but rather through the depth of feelings that she got her dancers to explore and convey. feelings of anguish, terror, love, longing, and pursuing questions of communication and personal boundaries. she would use improvisations and integrate pantomime and small gestures (even sign language) into the works, as well as dream sequences, montages, songs and speech, and much more.
the german wikipedia mentions that she would give her dancers tasks like: "do something very small. interrupting something, what happens? do something very dangerous with a very cute object. [show] a gesture which has something to do with helplessness." she would then note the answers & reactions without judgement or comment, thus complying a huge collection of material - of which 90% was then discarded.
pina bausch was asking: how can i express what i am feeling? and is noted for saying: "i am less interested in how people move but rather what moves them."
none of these questions are explored in wenders' movie. her dancers - whom we see in individual interviews, often in a silent pose with their voices overlayed - are talking about their experiences with her, yet the insights are limited and almost platitudinal. for instance: one female dancer explains that, because she was fearful of pina out of her respect for her, she would at first hide behind the back of other dancers when pina would critique the troop. eventually pina asked her: "what's wrong, i am not doing anything [to you]?" and the dancer eventually learned to relax more in her presence.
another (young) dancer is heard saying that, as the child of two dancers belonging to the troop, she was the first one to be born into the tanztheater, hence growing up in it and that she does not know what life without pina will possibly look like.
these interviews, that are cutting into the selection of the mentioned 4 works that wenders is showing, are also mingled with various sequences, some of them being rather gratuitous - for instance those in which groups of dancers are photographed with an annoying whining sound of a decaying flashbulb.
other sequences take the dancer/s outside, placing them in the middle of the screeching wuppertal-traffic or inside a swimming pool with screaming children in the background, in which the dimly lit dancer in the foreground is moreover being out-staged by the sunlit water in the background.
of these outdoor performances, the first half are being filmed in rather noisy, distracting locations - and of those, especially one sticks out as a strange 'comment': it shows an upbeat performance of a male dancer whose feet are constantly being snapped at by a smallish dog while the dog's owner sits back on a park bench in the background, observing the scene.
later a dancer compares (the almost anorexic) pina bausch to a big, lovable hippo - a prop used in her performance "arien" - and i am left wondering if the snappy dog is meant as another 'reincarnation' of the late choreographer...
all these repeated interruptions of the 4 performances wenders selected make it difficult to understand and appreciate the works - which, after all, are mainly supposed to explore, express and convey feelings - which are in themselves a subtle language.
instead, her string of thought (= her dancers' performances) is constantly interrupted by an AD(H)D wenders who is imposing himself rather than giving her (dancers) and the audience the room and the opportunity to 'listen', watch and understand what is being 'said'.
wenders decision to take the dancers out of the stage environment and into settings in and around wuppertal is another choice which i find rather alienating - especially in the first half of the movie, where he choses locations in which the performances almost disappear within the settings.
her work is conceived for the stage and seeing the dancers outside in their full 'attire' (lovely flowing dresses for the women - which, on occasions are also worn by men - a 'device' pina liked to play with) makes them stand out like strange flowers in an urban landscape of noise & traffic - again distracting the audience from pina bausch's goal: the conversion of often subtle feelings. while these location choices certainly evoke emotions, they do not allow an inward listening to what is being expressed in the dance.
for the later part, wenders choses calmer and more artistic locations which allow a 'dialog' between the performances and the environment, making these scenes a much more pleasant experience. but while these sequences are a visual feast, they all lead away from pina - and instead of exploring a person with a compelling ethos who pursued many essential questions all her life - wenders imposes his directorial mechanics instead.
to an audience unfamiliar with her work and exhilarated by the dance scenes and the superb 3D quality, wenders movie must feel like a revelation. to people familiar with her work, it is certainly exciting to see her achieve further recognition through wenders' movie. but for those in search for depth and an exploration of her work, this movie is a disappointment.