Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB. Germany/France/United Kingdom, 2011. Neue Road Movies, Eurowide Film Production, Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen, ZDFtheaterkanal, ARTE, Tanztheater Wuppertal, L’Arche Editeur, Pina Bausch Foundation, Pictorion_das Werk, Recorded Picture Company. Screenplay by Wim Wenders. Cinematography by Helene Louvart, Jorg Widmer. Produced by Gian-Piero Ringel, Erwin M. Schmidt, Wim Wenders. Music by Thom. Production Design by Peter Pabst. Costume Design by Rolf Borzik, Marion Cito. Film Editing by Toni Froschhammer. Academy Awards 2011. Dorian Awards 2011. Toronto International Film Festival 2011. Washington Film Critics Awards 2011.
Wim Wenders originally planned to film works from the career of the great experimental dance director Pina Bausch in collaboration with her two years earlier, but her tragic death from a rapidly progressive cancer took her away just days before shooting was to begin. Resurrecting the project some time later, Wenders collaborates with members of Bausch’s world-renowned Tanztheater Wuppertal to recreate many of the innovative, graceful, and emotionally resonant pieces that she contributed to her artform in her sixty-eight years. Primarily taken from four of her works, Café Muller, Rite of Spring, Full Moon and Kontakthof, the film also cuts away frequently to interviews with her dancers who perform their own individual solos in parts of the lovely city of Wuppertal, including outdoor parks, tram stations and factory yards. There are some incredibly elaborate pieces, such as scenes of joyful dancers splashing in the water on a moonscape, that are accentuated by the equally powerful, simpler bits, such as a woman joyfully jumping on chairs, or a man intensely revolving on an escalator. Even the more avant garde pieces, such as a dancer on tiptoe with veal in her ballet slippers, are done with such simplicity and honesty that they never come anywhere near being pretentiously esoteric. For a lover of information in a documentary film, this one might be a bit frustrating: we find out very little about Bausch, her years of operation or background on how her pieces were created or received, but the dancing (filmed in subtly beautiful 3-D) speaks volumes for itself. Recurring themes of passionately desperate women and coldly supportive men and repetitive motions in many of the dances tell us why this tiny woman with the big personality always asked her dancers, “What are you longing for? Where does this yearning come from?” The musical selections are superb and the choreography’s narratives, which combine dance with elements of theatre, will allow even the most unversed viewer in the art form to respond quite directly with it.