Entertainment & Arts

Wim Wender's 3D tribute to dance maestro Pina Bausch

Image caption The choreography of Pina Bausch revolutionised modern dance

Wim Wenders is one of the first art-house film-makers to explore the medium of 3D with his homage to the German expressionist choreographer Pina Bausch.

The director talked to the BBC World Service's Strand programme about the film and the remarkable woman who inspired it.

The first time he saw Pina Bausch on stage, Wim Wenders broke into tears and wept for the entire performance.

"Pina's revolution," he says, "was to not be interested in the aesthetics of dance, not how they move, but what moves them.

"I realised that this woman who I didn't know yet was able to show me more about men and women and the relationships between them in 40 minutes than in the entire history of cinema."

Bausch, considered to be one of the most important choreographers in modern dance, was director of Germany's famous Tanztheater Wuppertal.

Image caption Bausch and Wenders worked together on theatre and dance productions for almost 24 years

Wenders and Bausch first met in 1985, sowing the seeds of a love affair between dance and film. But it was something that Wenders would struggle for years to express.

"For 20 years I talked about the film," he says, "and I was reticent to do it because I thought I couldn't do it properly.

"I couldn't do justice to this contagious quality of her work, to the joyfulness of it, the physicality of it.

"I told Pina, 'There's an invisible wall between what you do and what I can put on screen. My craft can't handle it.'"

It wasn't until the introduction of 3D cinema that Wenders felt he had found the means to communicate Pina's work to the world.

Bausch agreed, and long before 3D had become popular again the two had started to plan the film.

Wenders knew that the kind of film that would do justice to Pina had to use 3D in an entirely new way.

"It has been used basically as an attraction, but it can be so much more," he explains.

"It is actually a real new language and it has added an amazing dimension to our craft."

When the pair embarked upon the film two years ago, it was conceived as a kind of travelogue of Pina and her troupe.

Tragically that film would never be made. Two days before filming was to begin, Bausch died suddenly after being diagnosed with cancer only five days before.

The nature of the project changed profoundly. Instead of following the choreographer at work, it became a posthumous tribute to her life.

Image caption Pina Bausch was diagnosed with an undisclosed form of cancer and died in 2009 at the age of 68

"It was a way to come to terms with the grief as much for the dancers as for myself. It was important for the dancers and also for me to give something back to Pina," says Wenders.

Using the voices of the dancers who were closest to her, the film describes their experiences with and memories of Bausch through their words and, perhaps more effectively, their movement.

Exploring the possibilities of 3D - primarily the preserve of the blockbuster and animated feature - Pina 3D is the first in what will undoubtedly be a stream of art-house films in the new medium.

Wenders' film also acts as a call to action for other artists. "Independent film-makers had better come up with new stories to tell in this new language because it is waiting for it," he says.

But it is Bausch's legacy that Wenders wants us to understand. "Pina opened up ways to understand the language of the body to read it and to use it," he goes on. "It is a revelation."

Pina 3D is out in the UK from 22 April.

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