Smile Politely

With Pina comes love, beauty and pain

Pina (2011)


Pina is a tribute to legendary modern dance choreographer Pina Bausch. Bausch died in 2009, five days after being diagnosed with lung cancer and just two days before filming began on this documentary. The result is a feature-length documentary that honors her art and almost functions as a filmed eulogy, comprised of both speech and dance, because “words can’t do more than just evoke things — that’s where dance comes in again.”

Directed by Wim Wenders, Pina was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the Academy Awards this year. It is full of movement, color, sound, and intensity. The opener, Rite of Spring, is the quintessential example. The stage is covered in soil and dancers march and move with grace and strength. They fall, they roll, they yearn, they fear, they face off with one another. The strings help make it feel violent at times and the trepidation becomes palpable.

In fact, the music is as varied as the dancers themselves, who are not cookie-cutter replicas, indistinguishable from one another. They each bring personality, warmth, care, balance, and fragility. They are never shown speaking directly to the camera about Pina, but are instead shown at their most vulnerable state — in quietude without movement. Their words resonate and reflect on their master, their idol, in recorded voice-overs. As the film offers, “your fragility is also your strength.”

Pina is a mix of raw documentary footage, staged performance, and dance that seems to be part of a flash mob, minus the mob. It’s on a busy street corner, in the park, at the community pool, outside a factory. It was shot in 3D, but the Art Theater is of course not capable of showing a 3D film as of yet. I can’t speak to the differences that it would make, but it’s a beautiful film however you see it.

Pina was beloved and revered for her vision, her understanding, and her character. Her work will be staged preceding the 2012 Olympics in London. One dancer described Pina as a painter and the dancers as the paint. Their bodies depict the images she sets forth and continue to allow them to live on. They allow her to live on.

Dance is a world that I am not privy to and may never truly understand. Pina says “dance, dance, otherwise we are lost.” But, for me, perhaps dance is the cause of bewilderment. The film reassures us however that “it’s all a language that you can learn to read.” I guess that you just have to be willing to take the time to see the phrases.

There is love, sorrow, beauty, and pain there.

Three out of four stars

Pina is now playing as the featured film at the Art Theater. Check the schedule for updated showtimes.


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