director Wim Wenders
What I know about “dance” could probably not fill the average thimble. So, what I knew about choreographer Pina Bausch before the release of Wim Wenders’ documentary of her work, Pina, was nothing. About some subjects of documentaries, I have reasonable or good knowledge, about some, I have nothing. Which is totally fine. I’m just offering this caveat because Pina is almost all dance, Pina Bausch, and the reflections of her contemporaries.
Wenders (The American Friend (1977), Paris, Texas (1984), Wings of Desire (1987), Until the End of the World (1991), Buena Vista Social Club (1999), among many others) had originally planned this film with Pina Bausch as a collaborator. But Bausch died rather suddenly during production, and Wenders was urged on to complete the film by Bausch’s other collaborators.
It’s an overview of her major works, staged on stage, or with pieces in and around the city of Wuppertal where her Tanztheater (“dance theater”) was/is situated. What results is overview, memorial, and tribute, very loosely given to factual background. If you don’t know anything about Bausch, you won’t learn facts from the film. You will see her work, hear some voices of people who worked with her, learned from her, done in voice-over of their mute faces.
Certainly, the works are vibrant and impressive. I was struck by them and how little context I had to understand them outside of their own being. In one way, I was reminded of silent film acting, how the performers render everything physically, mutely, with all of the body. Of course, this is but a small thing, since their physicality is so intense, some of their actions so precise, some so dramatic. Far less straight-forward are these pieces. This is modern dance (if that term still applies) and in its modernism, it’s hardly simply literal. Abstract.
The film has a beauty and elegance to it, certainly. And I could appreciate it, to an extent. I don’t feel that I utterly get it in the sense that I usually like more context and understanding of things that I wind up writing about. It isn’t my area of expertise and I don’t know that my thoughts on this film would be all that beneficial or enlightening.
It’s me. Not Pina.