‘Her work touched me like nothing else’
Wim Wenders documentary a tribute to famed choreographer
German Filmmaker Wim Wenders says he felt a special kinship with the great dance choreographer Pina Bausch.
“From our first encounter, we were very close,” said the 66-year-old director of such movies as Paris, Texas, Wings of Desire and Buena Vista Social Club. “Pina was like the older sister I never had. We were born just 50 kilometres apart. We spoke in the same regional accent from Rhineland. She was born during the war and I was born right after.”
Wender’s beautiful 3-D dance film Pina, Germany’s official Oscar submission in the category of best foreign language film, screens Nov. 22 at the Rideau Centre.
Wenders met Bausch in 1985 when his girlfriend dragged him to see her show Café Müller in Venice, Italy. Though he considered himself in no way a dance fan, he was floored by the experience. “Her work touched me like nothing else. It went straight into my body, as if my body and bones understood it better than my mind. It was very human; it touched on something universal. I thought, ‘In 40 minutes, she has shown more about men and women than in the entire history of cinema.’ ”
The two became friends, and met annually until Bausch’s death in 2009, just as he was about to begin production on a long-discussed collaboration. Talk of making a dance film together started in 1991, but it took Wenders a long time to find a way to do her work justice. There was something in the physicality of Bausch’s oeuvre that he felt would be lost on the big screen, and he couldn’t find a way to bridge the gap until 2007, when he saw his first movie in digital 3-D. “It was like a big door opening. I didn’t see the film, I saw only possibility.”
He called Bausch during the end credits (“I said, ‘I know!’ ’’) and began working with specialists in France to figure out how best to capture movement in 3-D. But in mid2009, Wenders received a phone call: Bausch had died the night before. He cancelled the project, initially, but Bausch’s dancers carried on, fulfilling the contracts of her Tanztheater (dance-theatre) Wuppertal company and rehearsing the pieces planned for the film.
“They made me understand that it was the wrong decision,” he said. “They said, ‘You have to do it.’ ”
Pina opens with the words: “By all of us, who made this film together.”
Wenders shoots Bausch’s dancers performing four of her works — The Rite of Spring, Café Müller, Vollmond and Kontakthof — onstage and in a variety of unconventional settings. He hopes his film will serve as a document of Bausch’s legacy and help bring her work to new audiences.
“I made my film for people who don’t know Pina at all, who don’t think dance concerns them — like myself before I saw my first piece with Pina. She opened a whole new universe for me. Pina’s dance was something very existential, joyful, deep and moving.”
German director Wim Wenders, left, congratulates German choreographer Pina Bausch after being awarded the Goethe prize. Wenders has produced a 3-D dance film he started making with Bausch before her death in 2009. The film is Germany’s official Oscar submission in the category of best foreign language film.