In this intriguing and fascinating film, the director Wim Wenders creates an elegy for his friend of 25 years, the German dancer, choreographer, and director of Tanztheater Wuppertal, Pina Bausch. It is telling that this is advertised as a being a film “for” Pina Bausch rather than “about” Pina Bausch. This is not a documentary but rather a tribute to this extraordinary creative artist; an eulogy since Bausch died a few days before the start of shooting the film and the sense of her loss permeates every frame.
Pina Bausch herself directed one film, Die Klage der Kaiserin (“The Complaint of the Empress”), in 1990, and Wenders parallels the form of that earlier film to a remarkable extent, as though channeling the recently deceased choreographer. Both films consist of an assemblage of choreographed scenes without explanation. In Wenders’ case, this includes scenes from Pina’s stage productions, in addition the choreographed dances and action outdoors in the countryside and in city streets that both use. Both films share a scene of a dancer sweeping leaves with a leaf blower however Wenders has nothing as startling as Pina’s image of dancer sitting on an armchair in the middle of city traffic nonchalantly smoking a cigarette. Perhaps the most striking of Wenders’ images is that of alternating age groups in a stage production that seem to change with every blink of the eye.
In remembering Pina, Wenders conveys, through the medium itself, themes that Pina had conveyed in her own film and dance: a sense of loss, of disorientation, physically and emotionally, searching, trying to find one’s way literally or metaphorically, eyes bound or closed. Maybe one could condense these into one over-riding theme: Finding your way in an a surreal world.
The film was shot in 3D and this is used to give depth and clarity to the images. Only once does the third dimension call attention to itself, when dancers splash water onto a rock and those splashes appear to fall onto the viewer’s laps.
This is such a beautiful, funny, sad, intriguing, captivating film that the viewers cannot help but share in Wenders’ sense of wonderment and loss and though this vision we feel the force, almost physically of Pina Bausch when she said “Dance, dance … otherwise we are lost.”