Film Review: Pina (2011)

I’ve been a little late on this one, but it is interesting to note that the session I attended on a Monday afternoon at the Cinema Nova was still fairly packed. For months now I’ve heard of the hype surrounding this film. Dancers, arty farty snobs, critics and outsiders alike have been singing its praises. The pressure was on.

Wim Wenders’ new 3D motion picture Pina has captured a life’s work on film. A range of performances of works created by celebrated German dancer Pina Bausch have been recreated on a stage in front of an audience and in external landscape settings.

Placing Pina into a specific film genre is more difficult than most films, as it literally dances between the notion of documentary and filmed performance art. Each work is intercut with a principal dancer featured in front of the camera saying nothing while a voiceover speaks their supposed internal thoughts about Bausch’s life and career. This effect takes the place of an interview feature and seems to work well as a mysterious interchange between performances. However, it highlights little about Bausch’s actual career, although this could actually be intended. This function leans away from the usual documentary style and lets the work speak for Bausch herself.

Indeed the work is simply stunning and has been captured wonderfully by Wenders. I am far from an expert on any dance style, let alone contemporary dance, but I have no problem saying that it held my interest with ease. I would be lying if I did not acknowledge the fact that there were quite a few moments where I was a tad puzzled as to what was going on, but that is a symptom of the actual dances and not of the film itself.

Pina is accessible and its use of 3D renders it even more so. The technology enhances the work rather than detracts from it, as some recent cinema outings have. Creating almost palpable dimensions that are visible in stage productions, Pina attempts to situate the viewer in the seat of the audience that we see actually seated throughout the film.

Having processed my initial thoughts and writing this review a few days after the screening, I am now convinced that a second viewing session would benefit my cinema going experience. It is not often that film critics get the chance to deeply reflect on their experiences, but that is the beautiful territory that comes with being a non-paid freelancer! Recollections of the scenes shot in outside landscapes still pervade my mind, and I really want to revisit the film as a consequence. I am actually surprised by this feeling, despite enjoying the film, I came out of it not really thinking about the next time I would be seeing it.

Pina is cinematic excellence. Wenders has produced an interesting performance art documentary in it. He has imaginatively placed contemporary dance in an interesting space through the lens of 3D technology and this is one of the film’s greatest assets.

Pina is currently released through Hopscotch Films.


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