The Washington Post

Another Dimension

Wim Wenders’ new film is a 3-D love letter to artistic inspiration and a departed friend

“Pina,” opening Feb. 3, isn’t the film Wim Wenders wanted to make. The German director had intended to team up with longtime friend and choreographer Pina Bausch to make a 3-D documentary about her dance company, the Tanztheater Wuppertal.

“We would have traveled to Southeast Asia and South America — it would have been much more of a road movie,” Wenders says. However, shortly before filming was to start, Bausch died suddenly. The movie became a eulogy, in part to their unlikely friendship.

When Wenders — best known for 1987’s “Wings of Desire” — first saw Bausch’s work, “It changed my life,” he recalls. “I became very emotional.”

They often discussed making a film, but Wenders had reservations. “My craft lacked something essential. Translating [dance] to screen, it seemed to be too much of a loss, so I was stalling for time. Each time we met, she asked, ‘Do you think we can do it soon?’”

What Wenders was looking for, he now realizes, was fully developed 3-D film technology. When he saw the 2008 concert film “U2 3D,” he realized that the capability was almost there. But there were still problems: “You couldn’t just rent a 3-D rig,” he explains. “The only ones that existed were prototypes. And nobody knew much about how to shoot in 3-D. I couldn’t call James Cameron [who was working on ‘Avatar’ at the time] and say, ‘Hey, how is this working?’ It was all very much pioneering, learning by doing.”

The 3-D in “Pina” (which earned an Oscar nomination this week for best documentary feature) is no mere gimmick: It creates a depth that mimics the feel of live dance. But during filming, Wenders had to fight the idea that 3-D had no place in an art-house film. “It took awhile until it sank in that this was a whole revolution in cinema, and, eventually, would be a language that almost everyone could use in filmmaking,” he says.

Now, 2-D “would feel like going back to an ancient form,” Wenders says. “I’m determined to work both in documentary and narrative film in 3-D. There’s so much to be discovered.”

Kristen Page-Kirby covers film, arts and events for Express.



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