Pina is a documentary tribute to Pina Bausch, an influential choreographer and performer of modern dance. The dance documentary, directed by Wim Wenders, was scheduled to start shooting, but Bausch's unexpected death almost derailed the project completely. Wenders was going to scrap the documentary, but completed it after her dancers convinced him to turn Pina into a tribute, without its title star. Pina was shot to be released in 3D and includes some of her most famous dances. The documentary is experimental, employing loose editing and portraits of her dancers presented with voice-overs for their brief appearances and interviews. While this choice is quite alienating, it also adds to the enigma of Pina and composes a more elemental and emotional undercurrent.
The documentary is an artwork in itself, delivering outstanding performances, showcasing Pina's soulful dance rhythms. Her Expressionist form of dance is captivating and delves into some dark corners of the human condition with her dancers, who wouldn't be out of place in a David Lynch film. The surreal currents of their movements, the beautiful back drops and the raw power of Man set against nature evoke such a rich emotional response from the audience. Their movements are translate into visual poetry... moving from fluid to jerky motions, always controlled, each with its own texture and story.
The movie trailer conveys this power, but doesn't quite capture the essence of the film itself, which tends towards melancholy and madness. The visuals are striking, as if Julie Taymor was behind production design, and Wenders immerses the audience in the film as it transitions quite effortlessly from stage to open air and back again with Pina's dancers providing the sense of continuity. Dance and 3D are a beautiful match, which is why the film was intended to be screened in 3D. Without the depth of field, it loses some of its energy and isn't as dynamic or resonant. Pina isn't an informational documentary, but a tribute that attempts to leave you with an impression of Pina through her powerful choreography and the admiration of her company of dancers.
The bottom line: Evocative
The Encounters Documentary Film Festival is underway in Cape Town and Johannesburg in South Africa between 7 and 24 June.