Pina 12/04/12 3:23
The result is not even what one would expect from the most inventive of modern dance forms. Pina went to the far edge of the avant-garde. A long beginning sequence shows her version of The Rite of Spring, the jagged movements of the dancers taking place on a stage covered with dirt, and as they become dirtier, the piece links sexual relations with a sense of primal fear. A centerpiece is the long work Café Muller, in which men and women enact strange rituals of connection and avoidance in a room full of obstructing chairs and tables. Many themes run through Pina's work—among them the passion of natural forces, the crippling limits of patriarchy, and the illusions of selfhood and performance. Many of the solos and duets take place outside, in the public spaces of Wuppertal, the German city that is home to the troupe. It is both lovely and uncanny to see the dancers' expressive work right next to a city street or in an elevated train.
Pina was interested in seeing dance from different perspectives, so we see older dancers and dancers of various body types. The nationalities and languages range across the globe. She was also very interested in body movement itself as a dramatic expression, so we see movements that might traditionally be considered awkward or not even like dance. The complicated feelings that these pieces, sometimes just fragments, evoke, can be uncomfortable, pushing us outside of the zone of aesthetic distance that we're used to, making us feel involved in the difficulties and conflicts being expressed in the movement.
Wenders puts us right in the middle of things, and the experience becomes hypnotic over the almost two-hour running time. It was shot in 3-D, and screened that way originally, although I can only imagine what that was like, because the current screening I saw was in regular 2-D, but the film still felt like an immersion in a strange and wonderful foreign land. Later I found out that Wenders had originally been planning to do a film with Pina herself, and after her sudden death from cancer, decided to go ahead and create the work as a tribute. I'm grateful that he did that.