German filmmaker Wim Wenders took arthouse cinema to a new dimension on Sunday at the Berlin film festival with the premiere of his 3D dance film “Pina” about the work of avant-garde choreographer Pina Bausch.
The annual cinema showcase made Sunday its unofficial 3D day, with screenings also of “Tales of the Night” by French animator Michel Ocelot and “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” by veteran German director Werner Herzog.
Wenders said he had wanted to do a joint film project with Bausch for more than two decades, since meeting the legendary choreographer, but struggled to convey the emotional rawness of her work on the screen until the advent of 3D technology.
“Only when the dimensional space was added to our language was I able to enter the dancers’ very own realm and their language -- that is why it took so long,” he told a news conference in Berlin. “3D and dance fit so wonderfully together, I don’t know how you could use this medium in a more appropriate manner.”
Hollywood 3D movies such as the sci-fi juggernaut “Avatar,” “Alice in Wonderland” and “Toy Story 3” have taken box offices worldwide by storm in recent years, but have yet to gain traction among arthouse movie makers.
“The future of this technology does not necessarily lie where it is being used at the moment, in fantasy films,” said Wenders, director of cinema classics such as “Wings of Desire” and “Buena Vista Social Club.” “Once it has been established with smaller and lighter cameras -- which is only a matter of time -- it will create a whole new approach for reality-driven films.”
The 3D effect is discrete in “Pina,” compared with that in Hollywood blockbusters, yet gives depth to the dance scenes and draws the viewer into the theatre.
Dance as narrative
Pina Bausch was credited with revolutionizing the language of modern dance, mixing athletic movement, sound and fragmented narrative in her choreographies. Wenders said he had originally been planning to follow Bausch and her Wuppertal Dance Theatre company on tour, filming the journey, rehearsals and performances in 3D. Yet her sudden death in 2009, a few days after she was diagnosed with cancer, nearly brought the project to a halt.
“We had always wanted to do this film together ... and then the unimaginable happened and Pina was no more,” he said. “At first I wanted to cancel the whole project but we slowly realized it was important to do it all the same, and Pina was always present in some way.”
The resulting film alternates scenes from Bausch’s choreographies, archive footage of her at work and poetic soloist dance performances in the city and surrounding area of Wuppertal -- her home and inspiration for 35 years.
A ballerina glides on pointes through an empty, red-brick industrial landscape, a couple bring each other to life through passionate dance by the side of a busy road and a bride stomps dramatically through a carriage on Wuppertal’s famous hanging monorail.
“Her whole imagination was constantly fired by the people of this city of Wuppertal ... so it was very important for us to let the city be a character in this film,” said Wenders.
The 61st Berlin film festival runs through Feb. 20 this year, culminating with the awards ceremony taking place on Feb. 19. “Pina” is screening in the main lineup but is not in the running for awards.