‘Her work touched me like noth­ing else’

Wim Wen­ders doc­u­men­tary a trib­ute to famed chore­og­ra­pher

Ottawa Citizen - - ARTS & LIFE - T’CHA DUN­LEVY

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.”

THOMAS LOHNES, DDP /AFP

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.

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