Since I heard that two influential German artists in the twentieth century, choreographer Pina Bausch and film maker Wim Wenders would create a film Pina by harnessing new digital technologies, I had waited impatiently for the day to release the film. It was not only because, since the huge success of James Cameron’s Avator (2009), I had had a passionate interest in ways how to employ 3D technologies in dance works, but also because Bausch was a choreographer who had rarely employed digital media in her works, as far as I knew.

Unfortunately, just a few months before the film went into production, Bausch died of cancer. Wenders then almost abandoned the film since the film was initially aimed to project Bausch’s ways of seeing the world through her choreographies, so he thought that there was nothing he could do without her. However, he changed his mind to start on the film as he realised that the film means much to her company Wuppertal Tanztheatre and Bausch’s family in terms of expressing her presence in personal lives of her dancers as well as her artistic influence on them.

The film focuses on her dancers each of whom speaks about Bausch in voiceover and then shows their solo or group movement sequences within a range of Bausch’s works.  Café Müller, Rite Of Spring, Kontakthof and Full moon are filmed on the proscenium stage, but many of the performances are shot in outdoor locations including the suspended monorail in Wuppertal, a crossroad, a plant site, a cliff, a knoll, a riverside and so on. For example, a woman wearing pointe shoes performs in the front of the factory or a woman moves like a robot on the monorail where a man with fake long ears is seated. It was a shame that the film does not inform the titles of her choreographic works or even the names of the dancers, so I was not able to know which of Bausch’s works the dancers’ short movement clips are extracted from.

To talk about this film, I certainly should deal with a significant issue that the film brings up in the dance field, which is the 3D effect on dance performance. It was told that before Bausch died, Wenders decided to use 3D technologies for the film in agreement with Bausch. Getting inspiration from Catherine Owens’ and Mark Pellington’s 2007 concert documentary U2 3D, Wenders assured himself that 3D images could be more adequate than 2D images to convey the inner expression and dynamics of the human bodies in Bausch’s choreographies, only if the 3D is not used as a gimmick. From my point of view, in Pina the 3D works effectively to a certain extent. The judicious use of the 3D provides the film with the depth of stage performance and makes viewers to feel overwhelming physicality. Nevertheless, I doubt whether 3D is fully capable to capture high speed motions since the edges of furious and energetic motions become dull in some scenes.

Furthermore, Pina leads me to raise some questions. Although Pina shows that 3D images can augment physicality in recorded representations, I do not think the 3D recorded version can substitute for the liveness of the original. It thus would be necessary to carefully consider what kind of liveness 3D technologies could produce, which would be distinct from that of live stage performance. I look forward to seeing how choreographers employ 3D technologies in more diverse and experimental ways.

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