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Germany

Wim Wenders Following The Footsteps Of Pina Bausch

The German director talks about his new film on the work of the late German choreographer, Pina Bausch. Capturing the creative genius -- and mystery -- of one of the 20th century’s great artists. And doing it in 3D.

Ariane Bavelier

They both had the same taste for radical experiences, and the same fear of words. "Me and her, we couldn't trust the past," Wim Wenders says. "We always had to discover things on our own. So when I saw Café Muller 20 years ago, I had to admit -- even as a man who had always rejected dancing -- that Pina said more about the relationship between men and women in 40 minutes than a thousand hours of cinema ever could."

It was after this encounter that Wenders had the idea of a film on Pina Bausch that would focus on her way of looking at things, on her capacity to make body movements express human relations in their most profound and precise form.

But the project dragged on for so long that no one believed it would ever take shape, until Wenders finally had the revelation of 3D: "The technology is often used as a gadget, but 3D and dancing are so closely linked," the flimmaker says.

Convinced of his idea, Wim Wenders talked to the choreographer about the content of the movie, and convinced her to join him. But on July 30 2009, only three days before the actual shooting was scheduled to start, Pina Bausch died.

"Now she can see everything"

After a moment of doubt, Wenders decided to make his movie without Bausch, but for her: he decided that there would be no biographical details and no explanations of any kind. He opted to focus instead on her vision of the world as transmitted through her artistic instrument, the Tanztheater (‘dance theatre") in the German city of Wuppertal. Every one of the 30 dancers of the company were chosen by Bausch herself, and the German choreographer taught them to live through the dancing she created for them, and the tours she organized to enchant and observe the world.

In the movie, Wenders asks them to speak about Pina with words or with the dances that they prepared with her, just as she used to choreograph her pieces by asking them questions to which they had to answer either by words or movements.

Wenders chooses the places outside the theatre most adapted to each answer. "We actually didn't have the choice," he says. "The theatre was closed, and I really wanted to take the 3D technology, which is generally used in the studio, out into the open air. I wanted to offer Pina the endless space. She told me how much she loved Wuppertal, which might be given a little role in the movie. Her movie, The Plaint of The Empress was also filmed there.

The pieces chosen by Pina for Wenders's movie -- Rite of Spring, Café Muller, Kontakthof and Vollmond -- are filmed between six and eight times each, either from the audience's perspective or directly from among the dancers on stage, which gives the viewer a very extraordinary feeling of immersion.

Wenders thought that he already knew Pina's dancers quite well, but the days spent shooting the movie with them really made him understood why she had chosen each one of them. "Threre are actors who are ready to give everything they have got, but the way in which Pina looked deep inside their very being is quite unique: nothing is fake in these dancers, no one plays any character. The dancers express themselves through an anthology of movements that she imagined. I believed to have the same ability as a director, but compared to her, I am completely illiterate."

Despite Pina's death, every member of her team continues to be incredibly close to the choreographer. "When she was here," says Dita, a Tanztheater dancer, "I dreaded the moments when, after a show, she would pinpoint everyone's mistakes. Now she can see everything."

Wenders, who has now perhaps spent more time than any other outsider immersed in the mystery of the Tanztheater company, puts it this way: "When Pina was here, they were her disciples. Now they have become their apostles."

Read the review in French.

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