Choreographer Pina Bausch was artistic director of Germany’s influential Tanztheater Wuppertal from 1972 until her death in 2009. In her memory, Wenders, a fan and friend, filmed four of her most celebrated “theater dances,” and combined the interludes with musings about the choreographer from members in her company. He shot the performances on stages, on industrial wasteland, and in busy Wuppertal streets. Including archival footage of the slight but imposing Bausch, this film explores the influential, game-changing world of this innovative creator.
Filmmaker Wenders excels at both features and documentaries, and this mesmerizing homage ranks with the best of his work. More an artistic impression than a traditional portrait, the stunning images and thoughtful elegies sweep over the viewer. Pina’s choreography draws on German Expressionism, traditional ballet and the modern dance movement of the 1970s; her use of elements (such as soil, water) in her pieces sets her apart as a pioneer of the form. Wenders’ compositions are worthy of her talent; his camera juxtaposes the fluidity (and often violence) of the dancers with stark backdrops, or city scenes such as the famed Wuppertal monorail. Nominated for an Oscar, “Pina” is a fascinating, eye-filling journey into the soul of a visionary.