The latest offering from legendary director Wim Wenders is a biopic about Pina Bausch, one of the most influential choreographers of contemporary times, renowned for her fusion of radical theatre, surreal sets and sexual drama.
Slipping on 3D specs, you might expect cartoon animals to stampede towards you, but Pina opens with red earth being churned up by a tribe of contemporary dancers in ‘Rite Of Spring’. Made just after Pina Bausch’s death, the film is a tribute to a woman who existed at both ends of life’s extremities: strong and fragile, serious and funny, lonely and tribal, old and child. The opening sequence is over-wrought, stressfully repetitive and full of fear and grief. But where there’s shadow, there’s light, and the intensity is eased by the comic way in which Bausch throws into relief the weirdness of what we do day-to-day: flirting, having sex, being tested by a doctor, blasting the garden with a leaf blower.
Typically a vehicle for busy animation and bust-em-ups, 3D comes into its own when dealing with the simple, yet extraordinary human feats of Bausch’s troupe. Some of the dance moves are like Madonna turning into a murder of crows in ‘Frozen’ or people suspended mid-air in Radiohead’s ‘Street Spirit’, only here it’s for real as the dancers showcase their superpowers. One of them muses, “You always felt more than human working with Pina.”
Whilst Wim Wenders is faithful to Bausch’s sets with their onstage storms, soil and icebergs, it’s through his inspired location work that her work really comes to life, like on the CGI-seeming, upside-down Wuppertal train, in the strange glass house in the forest or atop the dry, Dali-esque landscapes. Since it was shot amongst her disciples and so soon after her passing, Pina is all cultish devotion and little perspective, but for fans of the grande dame of dance, people seeking an education in her Tanztheater and all you 3D geeks, it’s vital viewing.
Pina is released on 22nd April. Watch out for Skye Sherwin’s interview with Wenders in i-D’s Summer Issue, out 11th May.