Just when we thought that the 3D trend was on the verge of completely jumping the shark, along come some master filmmakers to prove that, when used properly, it can not only be effective and cool-looking, but actually drive a picture and enhance both the narrative and visual experience. In THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN, Spielberg clearly had a blast exploring some new techniques and his enthusiasm shows. Scorcese’s HUGO (my #1 movie of 2011) is the first instance in which 3D is actually vital to the intended viewing experience. I didn’t see Herzog’s CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS in theatres, but I hear that the 3D was exceptional and well-suited to the material. And now there’s PINA, Wim Wenders’ tribute to famed German choreographer Pina Bausch, which takes the technology to new heights, infusing the film with a level of visual depth and immersion that we’ve never seen before.
As a documentary, the film doesn’t delve too deeply into Bausch’s life; it is more of a showcase for her work and a loving tribute from Wenders and the many dancers that have worked with her over the years. Each troupe member gets a private moment of reflection, accompanied by a close-up of his or her face against a dark backdrop, as they share a memory, quote or anecdote about Bausch. These moments are interspersed among dance routines that visually expand what one would see in a performance, while still retaining an intimate, almost visceral feel, complete with the sounds of dancers moving and breathing.
I was not familiar with Pina Bausch before seeing this movie, nor am I the least bit knowledgeable about the intricacies of contemporary dance -- but her themes of loneliness, sex and interpersonal relationships are universal. The dance routines are vibrant and surreal (hell, at times, off-the-wall bizarre), filled with humor, intensity and raw human emotion. The way the dancers’ bodies move, combined with the way they utilize space and depth of field, is such that filming in 3D must have been a no-brainer. The third dimension allows us to watch the routines with the same perspective as if we were watching them on stage. It is an astonishing visual experience and it’s hard to imagine enjoying the film in 2D in quite the same way.
It’s unlikely that having watched and enjoyed PINA will suddenly turn me into a die-hard fan of dance (though I did come home and immediately download the soundtrack, which contains some damn catchy stuff). But it is nevertheless a visually-stimulating, touching tribute to a talented and influential woman, and one of the few truly must-see 3D films that have been released so far.