Thursday, 8 September 2011


James McNally of Toronto Screen Shots recently asked if reviewers should hide or expose their biases. Since I believe reviewers should expose their biases, let me begin by saying that I know a lot about (and frequently enjoy) 3D films, and know almost nothing about dancing. Wim Wenders' Pina, part of the Masters Programme during this year's TIFF, may not scream "Wim Wenders" but it certainly employs a masterful use of 3D cinematography to film the works of German dance choreographer Pina Bausch.

Early film theorists such as André Bazin argued that in the future we would see film in the third dimension in a way that mimics a stage play. Pina employs both the use of stage settings and urban locations to exhibit Pina Bausch's pieces in a way that, no matter their location, brings the spectator onto the stage or scenery with the dancers. Wenders smartly opts for deep focus shots throughout the entirety of the film. One of my biggest complaints with 3D films is their refusal to allow the audience to choose what layer they wish to see. The dancers in Pina make frequent use of the space to create an appealing image that causes awe and inspiration. To be hyperbolic, it is like you are in the theatre with them. This motif is emphasized by the occasional placement of a few rows of theatre seats, mimicking the ones the viewer can seen beyond the cinema's screen.

The depth is also emphasized, for instance, by the contrast of the flat two dimensional video of Bausch (who passed away in 2009) performing her Café Mueller with the three dimensional recreation of Café Mueller. As with all live performances, part of the excitement is seeing it in person. However, this is feasibly not possible for everyone. Wenders decision to showcase Bausch's works in the third dimension grants access for those of us who would not normally have the opportunity to see a Bausch performance as if we were there ourselves. Film will never fully recreate the live experience, but performances in the third dimension certainly come close. As well, the dance sequences in urban settings seek to place the pieces outside of the confines of the stage and bring life to them in the open world. This is a visually stunning film.

That said, there is very little said about Pina Bausch's life itself. I went into the film knowing she was a German dance choreographer and I came out knowing she was a German dance choreographer that was loved by her students and peers. The film features pseudo-talking heads of her former students and colleagues, and by this I mean a three dimensional portrait of each speaker is shown while their narration plays separate from their portrait. The film is a tad long, and perhaps could have been served better by better explaining for us who Pina Bausch was for the uncultured such as myself.

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