Movie Review: Pina directed by Wim Wenders

A dancer on stage, from the film PinaPhoto by Donata Wenders/Sundance Selects

Movie award season came to a close last week with the Oscars. I admit that for the last few years not many of the movies that were nominated or critically acclaimed really piqued my interest. I didn’t get to see too many of the nominees for this year, but I did see a couple that I felt were indeed a wonderful representation of movies as an artistic genre. A couple of weeks before the Oscars I went to see Pina, a dance film shot in 3D, which was a nominee in the best documentary category. One of the designers at work saw it and recommened it to us at the office, saying that it was a stunning use of 3D movie technology. I didn’t really know what to think about seeing a dance movie, but the fact that it was in definitely 3D intrigued me. I was completely and most pleasurably surprised. Unlike traditional documentaries about theater or dance, which are shot from the audience’s point of view, the camera in Pina infiltrates the stage and moves like one of the dancers it is filming. The result is a painterly, three-dimensional diorama of the Tanztheater style of dance that was propagated by Pina Bausch.

Pina Bausch in motionPhoto by Anne-Christine Poujoulat, from

A portrait of Pina Bausch

Pina Bausch was a revolutionary force in the modern dance world. She was a dancer, choreographer, and also a teacher that valued expressionism in her works. There is a high sense of rawness in all of the dances in the film that only adds to the texture of the film itself. The film itself is a homage to Bausch, who died in 2009. In between scenes of performances on stage and in outside environments, the members of her dance company are filmed sitting quietly with contemplative looks on their faces while their voices then become the narration. Each one of them gives a testimonial on their experience as a dancer with Bausch, in their own native toungue.

DancersImage from

All in all the film was a beautiful montage of dance, experience, and cutting edge movie-making technology. I enjoyed it tremendously for the dimensionality it brought to what could easily be an overlooked documentary on contemporary dance.

Dancing in the streetImage from

The marriage of the elegant dances themselves against the industrial backdrops of present-day Germany and scenes in nature only add to the film’s painterly quality. The 3D technology definitely added another layer of texture to the already visually rich scenery.

A scene from PinaImage from

What the film lacked in actual narrative plotline, it made up for in meaning – as Bausch’s untimely death happened as the movie was being produced. The project almost never reached completion, but when it did it became a living testament to the creativity of one woman.

It was very clear that the film was a showcase of artistry, not just of the dances but also of the use of 3D technology. So many time when we here the word 3D couple with ‘movie,’ you almost expect to see flying swords or explosions. In the case of Pina, however, we get a first person experience of the suspended railway in Wuppertal and a 360-degree view of a glass house in the middle of the forest.

A pair of dancers against an urban sceneImage from

Dancers in a glass house with a view of the woodsImage from, Photo by Donata Wenders

Pina was a visual feast, and it definitely deserved its nomination for best documentary this year. Hopefully in the future filmmakers will take some cues from it to capture the beauty and essence of an intimate, immersive experience, just as Pina did.

Learn more about the film at:

Here’s the trailer:

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