PINA. Documentary Film. Starring Regina Advento, Malou Airaudo, Ruth Amarante, Jorge Puerta, Pina Bausch. Directed by Wim Wenders. Rated G. 103 minutes.

This is a film 'For Pina Bausch', the German choreographer, 1940-2009.

Director Wim Wenders had planned a film with her and about her and her dance theatre but she unexpectedly died in 2009.  Although she appears in some archival footage, this film is about her work and her legacy.

It has been filmed in 3D, giving extraordinary depth to many of the dance excerpts.  Wenders shows how 3D can be used effectively in documentary films (as has Werner Herzog in his documentary, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, exploring the art work in the caves in the Ardeche in France.)

This film is probably destined to be the visual equivalent of a text book for all dance schools and dance students.  It shows the range of dance beyond traditional ballet or performing as white swans or black swans.  The dancers rely on a sense of acting, on mime, on body language, on gymnastic techniques as well as a sense of poise, balance and creative movement.

It is all here in this film, excerpts from the Bausch choreography of The Rites of Spring and Cafe Muller as well as some brilliant and amusing contributions by individual dancers to jazz and to contemporary music.

The interviews with the dancers are arrestingly done, even if they do not say much more than how grateful they are to Pina Bausch and offer particular aphoristic pieces of advice, which mainly meant that the dancers themselves had to do the thinking and exploring.  The interviewees are presented centre screen in live portrait fashion but do not speak.  Rather, we hear them in voiceover which makes the comments more dramatically impressive.  The dancers are mainly the veterans who worked for years in the dance company.  There are some younger voices as well.

Part of the intrigue of some of the individual pieces is that they are danced outdoors in Wuppertal, the city where the dance company is located.  We see streets and crossings, warehouses, gardens and the trolley that goes through the city suspended on rails on the roof.

Pina Bausch was not always instantly appreciated, some of her choreography considered too 'modern' or bizarre.  By this stage of dance history, many audiences will take this kind of work for granted and respond well to it.

For those who might not consider themselves dance fans, Pina can be quite an exhilarating experience.

Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.

Hopscotch Films

Out August 18 2011.

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