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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Wenders-Bausch, la caméra en 3D pour filmer la danse

by Muriel Steinmetz

Wenders & Bausch, a 3D Camera to Film the Dance

Translated Saturday 9 April 2011, by Henry Crapo and reviewed by Edward Lamb

The filmmaker Wim Wenders knew how to preserve his memory of Pina Bausch, whose life was brutally extinguished just before the making of his film.

On the occasion of the release in France of his most recent film Pina, Wim Wenders [1] kindly agreed to respond to our questions.

Huma: The suffering and the greatness of dance, as that of the theater, resides in the ephemeral. Taking into account what Pina Bausch was, it is important to preserve this admirable memory. But how to film the dance? And how to film her dance, when everything she did was with her soul.

Wim Wenders:
How to film "Pina’s regard" was indeed the big question for me. Pina trusted me to find an answer, but it took me a long time to find it. It wasn’t obvious. There was a freedom in her work, an incredible lightness, as well as a truly "physical" aspect, contagious, which everyone could feel in their own body.

How to translate this into the language of cinema? It seemed to me there was an invisible wall that had been erected between what happened on stage at the Tanztheater and what it produced later on the screen. Pina expected much to come from joint work. To record a choreography, one can imagine using railway tracks, or a crane, a Steadycam, a hand-held camera ... One can stand back or come in close. I had a permanent foreboding that I would always disappoint her.

She expressed an essential, even existential, need to arrive at a film language that could come to terms with her creation. She had her portfolio of twenty works, then thirty, then forty, but all that was ephemeral. I had to admit to her that I did not know how to proceed. She understood my fears, but never ceased to push me to make efforts to find a solution. Every time we met, she would pose the same question: "So, do you know now?" And I would answer, "No, not yet." She had a vital need that I find a way to preserve the memory of her work in another way.

One fine day, the answer arrived, and not by some sudden inspiration. In fact, I found the answer on the screen. In May 2007, at the Cannes Film Festival. Thierry Frémaux projected U2 in 3D. The first time for me with 3D glasses, the first time for this "space mission" in cinema, and there was the answer! Eureka! The invisible wall was nothing but the dimension of space that we needed. So the big door opens on the screen, and gives us access to the realm of dancers in their own special element: three-dimensional space. At the end of the movie I called Pina to tell her "Now I know how we are going to be able to do it." Some weeks later we began our preparations, concretely envisaging the film upon which we could agree. Her first task was to select the works she would stage that season, and for which she wanted to preserve some trace:Café Müller, The Rite of Spring, Vollmund and Kontakthof (the latter in three different "ages"). The first possible date would be Fall and Winter of 2009-2010. Earlier than that, I would not have time to familiarize myself with this new 3D language for cinematography.

Huma: How would you evaluate your own contribution to the creation of the film, given that you deliberately put yourself in the background with respect to Pina Bausch ... ?

Wim Wenders: To make a film about someone else’s so special "regard", you have to place your own eyes at the service of the other, especially when the film was experimental, and I could not rely on any previous experience.

Huma: What’s more, you were a friend of this demanding, secret woman with great goodness within an exterior of firmness and rigor ... For how long had you known Pina Bausch?

Wim Wenders: My first meeting with her, and with her work, dates back to 1985. I had been living in the United States, so I had missed the early work of Pina in Germany and in Europe.

Huma: The fact that her disappearance occurred just at the beginning of the making of the film was surely a shock. How did this modify the way in which you made the film?

Wim Wenders: That changed everything. Her death was unthinkable. In the beginning, I cancelled the film. Some weeks later I understood, pushed by the dancers, that we could, and indeed must, film the pieces that they had begun to rehearse. If we could not make the film with Pina, with her watchful eye over the production, at least we could make a film for Pina.

Huma: In what sense is Pina Bausch the representative of the German soul today?

Wim Wenders: The key word for all her work comes from the heritage of German romanticism, Sehnsucht, which one cannot translate by "nostalgia", but rather by "the disease of nostalgia".

The Cinema of Pina Bausch is Immortalized

Wim Wenders has achieved the feat of synthesizing the soul of the dance of Pina Bausch in one hour and 43 minutes. The film opens with The Rite of Spring, one of the most famous pieces by the founder of Tanztheater Wuppertal. The amazing thing is that the filmmaker has managed to capture the interior of the piece by placing his camera, with 3D digital technology, at the heart of the troupe in action. The momentum of feeling in the work is reinforced by the fact that those first companions of Pina Bausch (Dominique Mercy, Julie Shanahan, Lutz Förster, Nazareth Panadero ...) show with their bodies the traces she had left on them. Archival footage of Pina Bausch in her famous Café Müller contributes not insignificantly to the emotion that this film constantly provokes.

[1photo of Wim Wenders by Mircea Rosca, AFP

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