Oscar reviews: 3D finds a worthy subject in Pina

by Andrew Doerfler / Beacon Staff • February 23, 2012

Web pina ifc
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Photo Courtesy of IFC Films.
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Photo Courtesy of IFC Films.
German choreographer and performer Pina Bausch died suddenly in 2009, just as she had begun to collaborate with director Wim Wenders (Paris, Texas; Wings of Desire) on a three dimensional dance documentary. Wenders, in response, retooled the project as a tribute to her life and work. The result, Pina, gorgeously renders a collage of routines, making it one of the few films so far to offer something truly new with this technology.

Pina is no somber reflection. The dances are fast-paced, fun, and frequently funny, extolling the human body while also depicting the absurdity of our behavior — A man and a woman embrace, until another man forces them apart, picks up the woman, and places her in the arms of the man, who promptly drops her. The couple returns to holding one another, and the process repeats over and over, each time more swiftly.

The 3D lens prevents any of the action from from being relegated to the background. While certain performers capture the camera’s focus, the extra dimension prevents a rigid demand of the viewer’s eye. In one of the first scenes, dancers hop, pound, and weave around each other on a large square of dirt, each looking just as fresh and natural no matter where in the field of vision.

Wenders splices this marvelous setting with black-and-white archival footage of Bausch herself dancing. It’s a maneuver that has the remarkable effect of underscoring the intensity of her creative vision, while simultaneously highlighting how much the third dimension adds to an on-screen depiction of dance. Everything is so thin — Bausch’s gaunt features are a testament to her life-consuming love of the art; the flatness of the screen is a reminder of how traditional film can neuter such a beautifully kinetic form. Dance on the big screen begs for 3D, and film needs modes like this to affirm the existence of 3D.