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Pina in 3D: A Film Review

reviewed by Tom Ferraro
February 2012

Pina in 3 D, by Wim Wenders, chronicles the work of the late Pina Bausch. This 104 minute film combines portions of “Le Sacre du Printemps”, “Café Muller”, “Vollmond”, and “Fur die kinder von gestern, heute und morgen”, and was recently nominated for an Oscar in the ‘Best Documentary Film’ category.
The famous psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion once wrote about the function of the genius. Bion felt that the world must brace itself for the arrival of the mystic genius because a) they rarely come and b) when they do, they destroy old forms of seeing and instantaneously replace them. Pina Bausch did just that for modern dance. And so, Bausch has functioned as one of the world’s greatest muses for the last thirty years. Pedro Almodovar started and ended his Oscar winning film “Talk to Her” with passages from Bausch’s “Café Muller” and “Masurca Fogo”. The master choreographer William Forsythe has been deeply influenced by Bausch. Books have been written about her largely because she established and gave credibility to a new genre of dance/theater.


Now Wim Wenders has attempted to film Bausch’s genius in 3-D, hoping this new technology would be able to somehow capture her magic. Wenders deserves much credit in facing this daunting task. Pina Bausch died a week before the beginning of this film and this tragic event no doubt impacted both the content and the tone of this film. Pina in 3 D reveals Bausch’s despairing views on love and her tormented views on sex. Though the gum chewing beauties dressed in evening gowns are absent, we do see mesmerizing portions of “Le Sacre du Printemps” with all that dirt and terrifying sexuality. We see the monstrous grey boulder in “Vollmond” set against the joyful frolicking and splashing of her beautiful dancers. We see part of “Café Muller” with the ghostly woman who blindly wanders around the café just missing all those empty chairs. We see parts of “Fur die kinder von gestern, heute und morgen” which famously confronted the audience with its voyeurism. Bausch was a master of staging contrasts and her set designers (Rolf Borzik until 1980, and then Peter Pabst) were instrumental in achieving her stunning visual effects.


In Pina in 3 D, I saw very clearly for the first time that live dance is vastly superior to film. With or without 3-D you cannot capture the size, the sound or the personal involvement you feel during a Bausch performance. I recall watching “Two Cigarettes in the Dark” at the BAM Opera House. At intermission the lights went up, the music stopped, the dancers stood still. The audience gets confused. Is it intermission time? Is this part of the performance? Then one of the dancers silently walks to center stage and motions for the audience to leave for a while. Dazzling fun and dazzling wit. Nothing else is quite like it.

Bausch explored and broke down conventions in dance. Wenders ought to be applauded for all his effort to show us some of it. . Go and see this Oscar nominated film so you can remember once more that we had a genius in our midst for a while. Pina, you were a true miracle.

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