Pina: Making of Wenders' Great 3D Dance Film

Wim Wenders was deeply impressed and moved when in 1985 he saw for the first time “Café Müller“ by choreographer Pina Bausch when the Tanztheater Wuppertal performed in Venice, at the occasion of a retrospective of Busch’s work. Out of the meeting of the two artists grew a long-standing friendship and with the passage of time the plan for a joint film. However, putting the plan into action failed for a long time because of the limited possibilities of the medium: Wenders felt that he had not yet found a way to adequately translate Pina Bausch’s unique art of movement, gesture, speech and music into film. Over the years the joint film project turned into a friendly ritual, almost a running gag, with both artists reminding one another of their plan. “When?” “As soon as I know how…”


The defining moment finally came for Wim Wenders when the Irish Rock band U2 presented their digitally produced 3D concert film “U2-3D“ in Cannes. Wenders knew immediately: “With 3D our project would be possible! Only in this way, by incorporating the dimension of space, I could dare (and not just presumingly), to bring Pina’s Tanztheater in in an adequate form to the screen. “ Wenders began to systematically view the new generation of digital 3D cinema and in 2008 together with Pina Bausch to consider the realization of their shared dream. Together with Wim Wenders, Bausch selected “Café Müller“, “Le Sacre du printemps“, ”Vollmond“ and “Kontakthof“ from her repertoire and added them to her 2009/2010 season.



In early 2009, Wim Wenders and his production company Neue Road Movies, together with Pina Bausch and the Ensemble of the Tanztheater Wuppertal, began the phase of actual pre-production. After half a year of intensive work, and only two days before the planned 3D rehearsal shoot, the unimaginable happened: Pina Bausch died on June 30th 2009, suddenly and unexpectedly. Around the world admirers of her art and friends of the Tanztheater Wuppertal mourned the death of the great choreographer. This seemed to be the end of the joint film project. Wim Wenders immediately stopped preparations, convinced that the movie, without Pina Bausch, should no longer be pursued.


After a period of mourning and reflection and encouraged by many international appeals, the consent of the family, and the request of staff and dancers of the ensemble who were just about to start rehearsing the pieces selected for the film, Wim Wenders decided to make the film without Pina Bausch at his side, after all. Her inquiring, affectionate look at the gestures and movements of her ensemble and every detail of her choreography was still alive and present and inscribed into the bodies of her dancers. Now, in spite of the great loss, was the right moment, and maybe the last one to record all this on film.


The new film concept includes, in addition to excerpts from the four productions of “Café Müller“, “Le Sacre du printemps“, ”Vollmond“ and “Kontakthof“, carefully selected archive footage of Pina Bausch at work, innovatively inserted in the 3D world of the film as a third element, with many imaginative, short solo performances by the dancers of the ensemble. To achieve this, Wim Wenders used Pina Bausch’s own method of “questioning” with which the choreographer developed her new productions. She posed questions and her dancers answered not in words, but with improvised dance and body language. They danced intimate feelings and personal experiences from which Pina Bausch, during intensive working sessions with her ensemble, developed her pieces. Wim Wenders turned to this method when he invited the dancers to express their memories of Pina Bausch for the film in individual solo performances. Wenders filmed these different solos for PINA in numerous locations in and around Wuppertal: in the countryside of the Bergisches Land, in industrial facilities, at road crossings and in the Wuppertal Suspension Line. They give the dancers of the ensemble individual faces, and form an exciting, polyphonic addition to the composed pieces of “Café Müller“, “Le Sacre du printemps“, ”Vollmond“ and “Kontakthof“.


Tanztheater Wuppertal ‘s long-time costume designer, Marion Cito, summed up the work with Wim Wenders and his film crew during the filming: “Like many of my colleagues, I sometimes cannot believe that Pina Bausch is no longer here. The great sadness is still far from over. To get over it needs more time. One senses, however, that she lives on in her works. Everything I do, even the filming, I do for Pina. That helps. I think it’s really great that Wenders is shooting his movie now, because Pina wanted this very much. “




PINA is not only one of the first European 3D movies ever, it is also the world’s first 3D art house film. Producer Gian Piero Ringel was faced with no easy task: “Technologically as well as with the genre, we enter completely unchartered territory with PINA. Even to find the technical experts for the development and implementation was a challenge, as there were very few.” Currently a new film language is being developed through the digital 3D process – a challenge for any producer. “Many other directors are still hesitating to work in 3D, because there are no successful models. We wanted to be a pioneers in the expansion of the cinematic language to 3D.“


But conquering new territory requires a special effort: “Everyone involved in the

production had to learn how to make a 3D dance movie. What works in 2D, does by no means have to work in 3D. For this we needed proper research”, says 3D Producer Erwin M. Schmidt. He continues: “In an ongoing learning process, we acquired the know-how for the preparation, the shoot and the post-production.”

“The new 3D process opens up an entirely new perspective on the Tanztheater, “ said a delighted Dominique Mercy, one of the two artistic directors of the Wuppertal Tanztheater, during the filming. “To work at this with Wim Wenders and his crew is a wonderful experience. It is a huge joint journey of exploration.

Wim Wenders continues to find out more and more about what the Tanztheater can be, and we discover with the film team a whole new way of working. It is a very creative atmosphere.”


“With the new 3D technology, Wim Wenders picks up the work of the Tanztheater that always consisted in crossing boundaries”, explains Peter Pabst, set designer of the Tanztheater Wuppertal since 1980 and Art Director of the film production PINA. “Crossing the border between the stage and the viewer is an important part of the choreography. The dancers are constantly engaged with the audience, even physically coming down from the stage. It has always played a crucial role for Pina Bausch that her pieces are completed first in the heads, eyes, heart and in the feelings of the audience.”


With PINA, Wim Wenders conquered a new dimension of filmmaking and yet says already during the filming: “As much as we need the third dimension, we are simultaneously doing our best to make the audience forget this very ‘conquest of space’. The plasticity should not call attention to itself, but should make itself almost invisible, so that Pina’s art becomes even more evident”




PINA was filmed in Wuppertal in three stages: in autumn of 2009, in spring and in summer of 2010. In the first stage “Café Müller“, “Le Sacre du printemps“ and “Vollmond“ were performed live on stage at the Wuppertal Opera House, some in front of an audience, and recorded in their entire lengths. The tight global tour schedule of the Tanztheater allowed only this window for the filming. In addition to the complex 3D recording, the challenge increased significantly with the live situation, because the recordings could not be interrupted or repeated. The complexity of a 3D live recording required intensive preparation and planning.


For the 3D image composition Wim Wenders convinced one of the most experienced 3D pioneers in stereography, Alain Derobe, to join his team. For the unique requirements of the shoot of PINA, Derobe developed a special 3D camera rig mounted on a crane. To create the depth of the room it is very important to stay close to the dancers and to follow them: “Normally, with a dance film, we would erect cameras in front of the stage, far away from the action on stage,” says Alain Derobe, “for PINA we positioned the cameras between the dancers. The camera literally dances with them. Therefore, each crew member had to deal with the choreography. Everyone had to know exactly where the dancers would move so the camera could follow them and not be in their way.”


Derobe was supported by 3D Supervisor François Garnier, who also saw dance theatre in 3D as a special challenge: “We cannot stop a dancer in short sequences, one must shoot in much longer sequences. The challenge is to always stay close by with the camera, although the dancer moves. “ Despite the difficulties, Garnier is convinced of using 3D: “Because dance is by nature a movement in space, there is no better method than 3D technology to show dance. 3D has all the space, all the action, and all the movement to offer. The sense of physical sensation is much more powerful than any intellectual reflection. With 3D, cinema enters a new level.”


In the second stage of filming, the team recorded with “Kontakthof” another early piece by Pina Bausch, this time without an audience. The classic was filmed by Wim Wenders in the three different castings created by Pina Bausch: with the ensemble of the Wuppertal Tanztheater, with men and women aged between 65 and 80, and with teenagers from the age of 14 on. For the solos the dancers of the ensemble left the limited space of the stage and performed in public spaces, industrial landscapes, the sweeping countryside of the Bergisches Land and in the Wuppertal Suspension Line.