He didn't set out looking for the third dimension, acclaimed German director Wim Wenders told an international audience of filmmakers, fans, academics, 3D enthusiasts and innovators at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in downtown Toronto on the weekend. But find it he did, as anyone in the audience would have to agree after seeing the first clip from his latest film PINA, to premiere in North America at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2011 and then hitting Canadian (3D) cinemas in December.
How to capture the essence of Pina Bausch, the queen of German dance theatre? How to film dance? How to do justice to Bausch's unique look at the world? These were the questions that had haunted Wenders for two decades, from his first encounter with Bausch in 1985 in Venice and his immediate wish to combine her (dance) world and his (film) world. Wenders, living up to his status as lauded auteur with his engrossing and passionate keynote speech at the Toronto International Stereoscopic 3D Conference, vividly described his struggles against the "invisible wall" between the very personal, contagious, ephemeral, at times painful work of Pina Bausch and the tools at a filmmaker's disposal. The history of film did not offer him any solution -- the latest technology breakthrough did. Seeing U2's 3D stage video in Cannes in 2007 proved to be Wenders' "revelation," the moment he knew he finally could fulfill his and Bausch's dream of finding a language to describe her dance. As Wenders explained his first contact with 3D then and there: "a door opened up in the screen, actually, the screen disappeared, I was invited into space."
Despite 3D not being on the map of the cinematographic landscape yet in 2007 (certainly not for live action films), it only took him three years to finish PINA -- but only after many, not always successful hands-on experiments. "We felt like the Lumière brothers," testing on the streets of Paris, Wenders said of the beginning of the project. Sadly, what had started out as a film with Pina (not about her) became a film for Pina after the grande dame of German dance died in 2009 before the film was finished.
"I don't want 3D to be the attraction of the film, but Pina's dance. It has to be natural, sincere, unpretentious," Wenders said of the place of the new technology, the new language in the creative process and his aesthetic expectations of the work. And while "3D potentiates 2D issues" (Wenders very colourfully described initially ending up with multi-armed Indian gods instead of fast-moving dancers when reviewing his takes), 3D for him proved to work very much like our eyes: one lens, no zoom, long takes.
Wenders ended up ingeniously dramaturging the material the way Pina had famously created her dance pieces: by asking her dancers questions, by letting the dancers reveal Pina's eyes through their bodies, by letting dance find answers. Not only did he bring down the "invisible wall" between dance and film, a shared space emerged that apparently no-one involved (nor the mesmerized audiences at the Berlinale 2011 premiere and beyond) seemed to have quite expected. "You can touch it and feel it," like one of Bausch's dancers says in the film's beautiful solo portraits, which likewise are "not just cut-outs like in the past 100 years" as Wenders comments, but with "volume, roundness, true presence and aura." All of a sudden, there is an I and an other on screen. Just like there has always been on Pina's stage, where "the tiniest detail matters!" (Bausch)
P.S. Jean-Laurent Sasportes, one of Pina's dancers portrayed in PINA, will be choreographing and performing in Toronto this winter -- 10 years after he accompanied Pina Bausch to Toronto's World Leaders Festival.
by Jutta Brendemühl, Goethe-Institut Toronto
Together with his producer Gian-Piero Ringel Wim Wenders attended the Toronto International Stereoscopic 3D Conference, presented by York University in June 2011, as a guest of the Goethe-Institut Toronto and the OMDC.