Starring Pina Bausch, Regina Advento and Malou Airaudo. Directed and written by Wim Wenders. Rated PG.
Pina is less a documentary about choreographer Pina Bausch and more of a eulogy. Wim Wenders set out to make a film with Bausch literally days before she passed away from lung cancer.
What we're left with is a beautifully shot and emotionally vibrant film remembering the life of a woman who touched a multitude of people through her work. Shot in glorious 3-D, Wenders does his best to break down the wall between audience and subject.
The film opens with curtains in the frame. As the curtains are lifted, they remain in the frame along with the front row of a theater. We are, in essence, joining the theater audience to watch Bausch's work. In an almost jolting fashion, we are catapulted onto the stage with the actors, a move that is impossible in the theater.
These moments onstage are intercut with reflective shots of actors and actresses, whose lips don't move. Rather, Wenders uses voiceovers to make it feel as though we are remembering Bausch with these people. Each person speaks in his or her own language (eight languages total are spoken in the film).
Even through all of these heartfelt anecdotes and beautiful shooting, we never really get a clear understanding of who Bausch was. I know: don't speak ill of the dead, but there is so much fondness in this film that it almost feels hokey at times.
My concern with this film being shot in 3-D was that Wenders would feel the need to use gimmicks, whether forced or not. The film moves smoothly, with no goofy 3-D gimmicks to be found. Instead, we get glorious deep focus and a chance to be on stage with the actors. That surprise of bringing the audience on stage is a very filmic device, and Wenders celebrates that. For me, Pina was as much about Wenders' adoration for film and technology as it was about Bausch.
It's difficult for the documentarian not to take sides about his subject and by nature a side is taken once filming begins. Pina, then, should be viewed not as a documentary about Bausch, but as Wenders' tribute to his friend. Pina is a beautiful and engaging film that works on many levels, just not as a documentary. —Joe Hakim