A film directed by Wim Wenders about the work of modern dance guru Pina Bausch who died during the making of the film. It was decided to continue with the film as a celebration of her art. The film consists of dances in different settings interspersed with interviews of dancers who must deal with their grief over their inspirer. The dances are set in studios or at outside locations in Wuppertal Germany, sometimes near the monorail, sometimes in rural settings. The studio sets are often sombre black or grey. There are suited and gowned dancers in experimental, repetitive, and rhythmical dances. There are expressions of grief, longing, and striving.
One of the most memorable scenes for me is a dancer harnessed to a wall. She is striving to escape from a desolate empty room. In the next room a dancer shovels dirt onto another dancer, in the furthest room a performer carries a long tree branch. I can appreciate its symbolism but it prompted comic thoughts of someone mischievously setting fire to it. There is a sense of humour in these artistic scenarios, right? The gloomy slate grey archways in this sketch reminded me of a de Chirico painting. Speaking of Monty Python moments, the dancing sometimes looked like obsessive compulsives getting stuck in a mime act, other times it looked like a setting for a pretentious ballad, maybe by Sting. Generally, the soundtrack was excellent, there was lots of mesmeric music. Often it looked like posh mugging in black and grey rooms, the sort of place that invites a sudden inflammation of vivid colour. When the dancers performed Rite of Spring there was a cloth of vivid scarlet like blood flashing through the tangle of bodies over the wet brown earth. Usually the dances for me, seemed to illustrate a poem or state of mind. I can only use visual analogy because I’m not au fait with the art of modern dance. It also looked like situational theatre, especially in the urban setting of the Wuppertal monorail. It was like some symbolic street theatre in complicated semaphores trying to break through bodily prisms, the dancers trying to resolve some psychological struggle in dance movement and posture. It would be great if we could all get into regular dance regardless of place, though of course it would be comical.
The death of the dance mentor, Pina, did not weigh too heavily on the film but there was a mildly pervasive sadness, as well as in the psyches of the individual dancers. The speech in this film is minimal and to the point. Poetry, visual image, and sound elided through each other to make the whole work of art. Each word about Pina had a clarity like it was chiselled on all that grey stone. The dancing among the heavy boundaries of rock, earth, and water was all like a breathless epitaph for Pina, and it made a stunning film.
Seen at Chapter, Cardiff.