TORONTO—According to Wim Wenders, 3-D is not just for superheroes any more. As the 66-year-old German director told reporters at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival, he didn’t just want to shoot his latest film, Pina, in 3-D: “I needed to shoot it in 3-D, and I would not have done it if the idea hadn’t come up.”
Wenders and German dancer-choreographer Philippina “Pina” Bausch had discussed filming her work for more than two decades, and Wenders would have been willing “to drop everything to do this movie, but I just didn’t know how to do it”.
“It was somewhere that my craft missed something and I didn’t feel it was adequate to capture the contentious beauty, the physical beauty of Pina’s work,” Wenders continued. “I just didn’t know how to do it. Everything I could do felt inappropriate. I didn’t know it was 3-D I was missing until I saw it for the first time, for the very first time, in 2007. One of the first films that came out was a music film, U2 3D. I saw that and it hit me: that was the solution. That’s what I’ve been missing, the whole third dimension. Finally it was available—the tool—and I went for it. Of course, everybody thought we were crazy because that was way before anything was out. There were a few animation movies, but nothing that was shot in real life.
“Lots of people thought we were nuts, because it didn’t make sense to them, and they all asked: ‘Can we also see it normally?’ ” He puts on an accent, imitating one of his imagined critics: “I mean, we know you wanna do it in 3-D, but that’s a gimmick.”
Then he continues in his German-accented voice, “Then Avatar came out while we were editing and it put 3-D on the landscape, and we’re totally grateful that it came out; it really opened up that technology.”
Even after realizing how to make the film, Wenders decided the documentary wasn’t meant to be when Bausch died unexpectedly of cancer just before filming was set to begin. “She was diagnosed with cancer, didn’t tell anyone except her son, and died five days later…After Pina’s death, I completely abandoned the project and pulled the plug. It seemed like there was nothing else to do. The entire concept for the film was a concept with Pina: about her look, about her way of seeing the world, and about these eyes of hers. It was a whole different film that we were going to make, the two of us, together. Then she was dead and that film was completely over. I cancelled everything and announced to the financiers and the coproducers and the crew that we’re not going to make the film.”
It was Bausch’s dancers who convinced Wenders he couldn’t walk away. They decided to keep her company alive, elected a board, and started rehearsing the pieces Bausch had selected for the film.
“In order to film them, she had put it on the agenda of the company. The public performances of these four plays was starting in October 2009, and that’s when we had planned to start the shoot. Just a couple of weeks before they started to perform, I decided to jump-start the project and realized that it was important to film them and to fulfill that dream after all. Pina would have wanted us to do it.
“At least, the dancers convinced me, and I think they were right, because Pina’s eyes were still on all of them."
Watch the trailer for Pina.