A year after its German release, Pina is now hitting select United States theaters, opening in Atlanta today exclusively at AMC Phipps Plaza. Though Wenders and Bausch were originally going to make the film collaboratively, utilizing 3-D technology in ways just as inventive as Bausch’s dance routines, Bausch died during the planning stages of the film, just before filming was to begin. But Wenders and the dancers of the Tanztheater Wuppertal continued her literal and proverbial dance, making Pina a memorial of one of Germany’s most inspiring artistic figures.
Pina features some of Bausch’s most interpretive and expressionistic numbers performed by several dancers in settings ranging from a theater stage covered in water and city streets to more surreal locales such as a dollhouse (with Wenders using 3-D technology to seemingly transport the viewer into the minuscule setting). Though the film doesn’t have a clear narrative, each dance scene segues into the next rather fluidly with brief testimonials from some of the dancers about Bausch’s impact on their lives and careers.
The visceral nature of many of Pina’s scenes verge, at times, on being disturbing. For example, when various women writhe around on a dirt-covered stage then, one at a time, desperately offer a red cloth to a male dancer who continuously (and somewhat violently) refuses it. It’s hard not to sympathize with the women (even though none of it may make any logical sense to you). In another scene, a man continuously picks up a woman and drops her, only to have her leap back into his arms to be dropped again, with the cycle hastening each time. The cycle is both comical and unnerving. But like each of the other pieces in the film, it is a metaphorical look at a deeper philosophical idea.
Bausch herself appears rarely in the film, and only in grainy flashbacks from earlier in her career. But one of the main points of the film is that Bausch lives on through her inventive choreography and the dancers she inspired. And though she will never get to teach another student or choreograph another dance, Bausch will continue to inspire thanks to this fitting tribute to her accomplishments.