Pina (2011) ☆☆☆(3/4) : On her mesmerizing works on the stage

Here is another good documentary which reminds me that I still have a lot more things to know in case of art. Around the beginning of this month, I saw Kevin Macdonald’s documentary “Marley”(2011), which was a sincerer tribute to a great musician and his works I was not so familiar with. Now the end of this month is coming, and “Pina” will be released at South Korean theaters in the next weekend, and it is a respectful tribute to another famous artist and her works I had not even heard about before watching it.

Her name is Pina Bausch, a choreographer and modern dance performer who was well known for her impressive works performed in “Tanztheater” style. In 2009, the director Wim Wenders was about to make a documentary on her works through the collaboration with her, but, unfortunately, she was diagnosed to have cancer during its pre-production process. She died 5 days after the diagnosis – and 2 days before the shooting.

As a consequence, Wenders’s documentary mainly revolves around her works rather than Bausch herself, who is briefly glimpsed through archival footage from time to time. Her works are performed on the stage by the members of the Tanztheater Wuppertal for this documentary, and they are compelling enough to grip your attention instantly from the start. There are four pieces introduced in the documentary, and the first one is “The Rite of Spring”. We see a group of female dancers on the brown soil spread on the stage at first. After they go through several movements, we later see them dynamically move and interact with a group of male performers through various group/individual motions. I must confess that I do not know how to interpret this piece in words, but I sensed something beyond words was being expressed through the movements of dancers and the soil below them. Maybe it was about the vibrant but violent life force during springtime, I guess.

And there is another interesting piece named “Café Müller”, which was briefly shown in Pedro Almodóvar’s “Talk to Her”(2002). The stage is a cafe with many chairs and tables, and, while the performers are moving around, the positions of the furnitures on the stage are constantly changed by others, and they sometimes stumble upon them. This is followed by another frustrating cycle of movements between two men and a woman, which is repeated over and over.

While the documentary shows us the excerpts from these two pieces and other two equally mesmerizing ones(“Kontakthof” and “Vollmond”), Wenders and the performers also try an interesting experiment. The performers do several solo or duo performances outside, so we get several odd sights like a woman ponderously walking into a monorail or a man frantically dancing on street with cheerful music. I am not sure about whether these scenes are as successful as intended, because it seems that they merely present the performances with different backgrounds while not doing much besides that.

We also get the interview clips from the various artists who worked with Bausch. They are typical talking head interview clips on the surface, but, interestingly, Wenders has them look to us without a word while they are talking about their experiences with Bausch on the soundtrack. They speak in different languages, but they all invariably talk about how great it was to them to work with an artist like Bausch, who brought the best out of their weaknesses as well as their strengths. The wordless faces of interviewees clearly convey us how sincerely they admire and respect her with their hearts.

For the effective presentation of the stage performances on the screen, Wenders used 3D effects throughout his documentary. I watched it in 2D, so I cannot talk about its 3D effects, but, like Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo”(2011), “Pina” proves my personal thought on good 3D film is right again; if 3D is used with skill and purpose in the movie, it shows you where they will be effectively utilized even when you’re watching in 2D. I am particularly curious about how one scene featuring a miniature stage looks like in 3D, and I am willing to watch the documentary in 3D again if I get a chance.

Anyway, you do not need 3D glasses to know that “Pina”, which was Oscar-nominated for Best Documentary early in this year(it was initially Germany’s official submission to the Best Foreign Language Film category), is an engaging documentary. In case of “Kontakthof”, Wenders used the editing technique to simultaneously present its three variations respectively performed by three groups in different ages, so we see how different they are from each other while retaining consistent elements and themes shared by them. In “Vollmond”, there is a big, huge rock in the middle of the wet stage, and it is sort of fun to see the performers on the stage throwing buckets of water to each other in front the rock.

The documentary gives little information about Bausch’s life or her work process, and that makes her absence more apparent and visible like a hole in the picture. Furthermore, it is not informative enough to the audiences like me not so familiar with her or her works, and, though they look vivid, I did not feel that the excerpts from the stage performances in the documentary are good alternative to watching a real performance on the stage. None the less, considering that it was not perfect from the beginning due to her untimely death, I think “Pina” is a good documentary which also works as a nice tribute to its subject and I enjoyed what it presented. I hope I will be able to watch at least one of her works on the stage someday for my snobbish satisfaction.

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One Response to Pina (2011) ☆☆☆(3/4) : On her mesmerizing works on the stage

  1. S M Rana says:

    There are not too many movies about dance,bio-opera seems interesting…

    SC: And we’re stuck with the mediocre dance films like “Step Up: Revolution”…

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