A legendary pioneer of the New German Cinema in the 1970s, Wim Wenders has never been content to rest on his laurels. Embracing digital video as early as 1999’s Buena Vista Social Club, the director just took a bold leap into 3-D for his new film Pina, a heartfelt tribute to his old friend, choreographer Pina Bausch. Wenders spoke with PW via phone to discuss this project’s lengthy genesis, as well as the future of 3-D cinema.
PW: I understand this film had a longer-than-normal gestation period?
Wim Wenders: Pina and I dreamt of a film together for more than 20 years. But there was an invisible wall that I could not bring down, so I asked Pina for time. The big door finally opened for me when I saw the first precursors to the digital 3-D wave and realized—there finally was the tool I have been waiting for! What I had been missing was the extra dimension, and finally I could not watch from the outside looking in. I could instead be in their world, like a fish in the water. When we finally discovered that option, Pina and I together jumped into it and we prepared this film for almost two years. Very briefly before we had agreed to shoot, Pina passed away, and that was the end of more than 20 years of wanting to make this film together.
PW: And you cancelled the movie?
WW: I just pulled the plug and walked away. The fact that there is a film now I owe entirely to the dancers. They continued the company and they began to rehearse the pieces that Pina had put on the agenda. The dancers brought it to my attention that this may be the last time that they’ll ever be performed. I soon realized that doing a film with Pina was impossible, but maybe there was a film to be made without Pina, or rather for her, and I could do it with the dancers.
PW: Unlike most documentaries, you don’t supply biographical information here. We’re just dropped into a performance and the film plays out.
WW: When Pina and I wanted to make the film together, the two ground rules were no biography and no interviews. I struggled for a long time in the editing room, because words were never Pina’s forte. She hated interviews. She hated explanations and never gave any. She always felt that dance should speak for itself as a complete language that would say everything she needed to say. And I agreed. I felt a film for Pina should not be done with words.
PW: You’ve been working on this picture for so long, you must have been on the ground floor of digital 3-D.
WW: We started to inquire about the technology and did our first tests as early as 2007. We shot the bulk of the movie before Avatar came out, so we were really in the very beginning of the infancy. I wanted to have a very natural approach, and really respect the physiognomy of the dancers, being as close to what you would actually see on a stage. We didn’t want the technology to call too much attention to itself. The intention of our film was Pina’s dances.
PW: So I take it you’re a fan of 3-D?
WW: This technology is so much more than just technology; it is a whole new language. The digital revolution in cinema—sound was 80 years ago, color also—this is a fantastic tool. For the first years it was strictly used for animation and action films, people started to think that it belonged only to this world. But it can do so much more! Of course, the story has to have some affinity to the use of space. You have to conceive of the film in 3-D. I think as soon as independent filmmakers really start using it, we will start seeing a multitude of revolutions that 3-D brings about. I feel it would be going backward for me to make a flat film again. Cinema has been waiting for this for so long; it’s still evolving and developing. I think it is an adventure.