Pining for Pina

If you’re anywhere near a movie theatre that’s playing Pina right now, open a different browser window, buy a ticket, and go to see it immediately. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200, just head straight to the cinema. Trust me.

Some of the theatres in my city are playing it, both in 2D and 3D, and I’ve been recommending the movie like mad to anyone who will listen. I saw it twice this past summer in 3D while I was in Germany, and will probably see it again, in however many dimensions I can, before it leaves the cinemas again. “Pina” is probably one of the most exquisite things I’ve seen on a movie screen. If you love dance, if you love art or music, heck, even if you just like seeing beautiful things or fascinating people, you will love it.

“Pina” was originally planned as a documentary. Pina Bausch, one of the leading choreographers of modern German dance, was working with director Wim Wenders when, a few days before beginning the shoot, she died suddenly of cancer. Wenders wound up making the piece anyway, but it became an homage to Bausch herself. Pieces from her dance works are interlaced with her dancers’ recollections of working with her,of  learning their craft from a charismatic, understated, and powerful woman.

Why see it? The dancing is passionate, stunning, sometimes joyful, often troubling. The dancers themselves are equally fascinating; we are used to seeing the sameness of Hollywood faces on the big screen, but here are artists who can control every muscle and the intention behind it, and whose faces show the individual lines of long experience. The discussions of dance are incredibly subtle, and would be of interest to any practitioner. For example, in archival footage, Bausch describes performing a choreography that demanded she keep her eyes closed throughout, but feeling that this repetition was somehow different, not right — then realising that it made a difference to the feeling of the dance whether she looked up or down behind her shut eyelids. See it also because the cinematography beautifies Wuppertal, an industrial German city made enchanted by the dancing filmed in its parks, public transit, and mines.

Really — just go see it. Then come back and tell me what you thought.