Posts Tagged ‘Kirov Ballet’

“Pina,” Wim Wenders’ 3D Dance Film

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

By Rachel Straus

“You just have to get crazier.” These words came from Pina Bausch, the late choreographer, whose dance troupe made the industrial city of Wuppertal, Germany an avant-garde theatrical destination for 36 years. In Wim Wenders’ 3D documentary “Pina,” screened on October 15 at Alice Tully Hall for the New York Film Festival, audiences got a taste of what Bausch’s crazy looks like. In one scene, a Bausch dancer walks through a park in a floor-length dress like a zombie queen. The woman careens to the ground, flat as a board. Right before smashing her face, her suitor scoops her up like a crane lift. Then she falls again, and again. The effect is part amusement ride, part suicide watch.

Bausch’s surrealistic collage-structured dances revel in the frightening, funny, fragile inner states of the human psyche. On Bausch’s stage compulsive disorders, misogynism, sadism, and run-of-the-mill cultural oppression cavort like lunatics at an insane asylum. Fortunately, Bausch chose her inmates well. Her cadre of dancers resemble one-of-a-kind flowers, grown in places as far afield as Brazil and Tokyo. Before one’s eyes, their limbs uncoil, tendril-like, always searching for something to grasp. Inevitably they fall. The metaphor is an obvious one, but Bausch won die-hard fans around the world with this trope in her 40-plus works. Her dances evoked desperate perseverance, in all of its illogical inanity. Her singular message was digestible because she made human effort, and failure, look beautifully irresistible.

Pina Bausch, 68, died June 2009, the night before Wim Wenders was to begin shooting their long-postponed film collaboration. Since 1985 Wenders, whose films include “Buena Vista Social Club,” “Paris, Texas,” and “Wings of Desire,” had been discussing with Bausch a project featuring her choreography. On stage Wenders explained that it wasn’t until he saw 3D film technology, he felt he could do Bausch’s work justice. Regular film, Wenders said, creates an “invisible wall” between the dance and the celluloid image. “Something,” he said, “did not work.” With that comment, Wenders invited the audiences to consider whether his 3D “Pina” does.

When Wenders’ 3D segments captured Bausch’s dancers on tramcars and busy roadways, in parks and glass houses, the film became bigger than life. The dancers’ gesture-driven performances in these hyper-pixilated landscapes grew mesmerizing with the sharp, glistening quality of the film. Among the rush of cars, swaying of  trees, and presence of pedestrians, the dancers became absorbed into a heightened but familiar reality, a piece with Bausch’s style of magic realism.

When the dancers were shot in the theater, however, Wenders encountered less success. His close-up camera work felt intrusive and aggressive. In one segment, Wenders’ camera closed in on a woman’s squirming back in Bausch’s 1975 “Rite of Spring.” By zeroing in on her struggle, Wenders made the moment personal instead of archetypal. In “Rite,” the cast resembles primitives. Their landscape is a dirt-strewn stage. The proscenium frames them the way an icon painting is framed by an architectural portal. The dancers become effigies; their individual features are abstracted through their unison, slicing movement.

Though Bausch’s performers occasionally saunter through theater aisles looking glamorous and talking to regular folk, when they represent universal beings, they do it on stage at at remove from the audience. Bausch didn’t offer ticket holders intimacy. She created a theatrical portal for her vision to be perceived. Her method was simple: She distanced the performer from the spectator. She created just the kind of wall that Wenders wants to permeate.

Whether 3D films like “Pina” will fan the flames of the American dance audience is much in discussion. Thus far a handful of 3D dance films have been produced, including The Kirov’s “Giselle,” Matthew Bourne’s “Swan Lake,” Michael Flatley’s “Lord of the Dance, and “Step Up 3D.” Turning a dancing body into a 3D piece of digitalia is fascinating, but whether it can compete with the power of live dance performance isn’t a slam dunk. When Wenders’ camera gave Bausch performers the space to disport themselves, he captured their beautiful craziness. He transmitted their quality of dangerous freedom. He didn’t come in for a close up. At these moments, I think, Pina Bausch would have been pleased.