Film Review: Pina [dir: Wim Wenders; 2011]

Sticking a camera in front of an acclaimed stage production usually results in an awkward mess that drains its source material of life and reduces it to a display of embarrassing amateurishness. Anyone who spent some of their A Level Lit lessons watching BBC Shakespeare adaptations will know exactly what I mean. Wim Wenders completely avoids this trap in his latest film, a presentation of excerpts from various Pina Bausch-choreographed pieces, interspersed with voiceovers from members of her company. As we hear their affectionate, elliptical statements about the woman’s effect on their lives and careers, we watch their bodies creating the most fantastical shapes, both in a theatre and in incongruous ‘real’ settings, such as a traffic island in the middle of a busy interchange. They bump into chairs strewn across a deserted cafe. They climb a gigantic, rain-soaked boulder. And they fall into the embrace of a patient, watchful partner. The dances open themselves to all sorts of readings about trust, rituals and relationships, but the overriding message would appear to be that the human form – whether working alone or as part of a group – is endlessly capable of producing extraordinary beauty. There was probably no need for it to be filmed in 3D, but Pina will almost certainly go down as one of the year’s most original releases.

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