Breathing. When you watch bodies in Wim Wenders’ Pina, you hear and see them breathing. In a movie about dancers — about the work of dancers, their efforts to tell stories, to move audiences — this is no small thing. And in this, the 3D imaging is actually more helpful than distracting: it focuses your attention on what the dancers’ bodies do, in space, in relation to one another and in relation to the costumes and props they use, which range from chairs and tables (in Café Müller) to dirt (Rite of Spring) to water (Vollmund). And in this, the film is a revelation.
Sneak-screening 12 December at Stranger Than Fiction (and followed by a Q&A with dance critic Deborah Jowitt, who has written about the film in Film Comment), Wenders’ movie is both a tribute to the choreographer Pina Bausch, using members of her Tanztheater Wuppertal, and an exploration of the relationship between movies and bodies. For the first focus, it is exhilarating and informative: dancers remember Pina, how they evolved as artists with her, and how she inspired them. For the second focus, the film invites you to contemplate how people might express themselves, with gesture and movement, and also how they find themselves and each other. As each individual by definition experiences in isolation, inside a body, so too might individuals reach across to others, to traverse and reveal and make sense of space, to run and jump and fall, to sway and bend and breathe. That a film can show that is also a sort of movement.