Blu-ray Review: 'Pina' Special Edition

Ensemble Vollomond. Photo by Laurent Philippe.

“It all began with Café Müller,” says director Wim Wenders in the “Making of” documentary that accompanies his film Pina. Pina, an Oscar-nominee for Best Documentary Feature, is Wenders’ tribute to the life and work of renowned choreographer Pina Bausch. Wenders notes that the staging of Café Müller provided much of the inspiration for making a dance film with his long-time friend, Pina. Müller, as the film conveys, reveals how Pina’s work enjoyed an in-betweenness of dance and theatre, as well as art and life. The props of Café Mueller—a large assortment of chairs—are strewn around the stage to create a complex maze that the dancers navigate in order to make the surreal, chaotic experience of piece. However, it was during the preparations for the film that Wenders also felt a cross between art and life, for Pina Bausch died suddenly in 2009 and Wenders thought it too difficult to continue the film without her.  

The show must go on nevertheless, so Wenders resumed production of the film along with members of the Tanztheater Wuppertal, the same performers who danced under Pina’s direction. Wenders and the dancers present four of Pina’s greatest works in the film: Le marché du printemps, Café Müller, Kontakthof, and Vollomond (Full Moon). Each sequence remains true to Pina’s inspiration, as Wenders captures the performances in a fine meeting place of film and theatre. Café Müller arguably grants the film its centrepiece, since it’s the dance portrayed in its fullest duration, but the whole of the film creates a unique, sensuous experience so that one feels Bausch’s work, rather than merely watches it.

Wenders’ success in paying tribute to the film succeeds through his innovative idea to shoot Pina in the latest 3D technology. As Wenders notes in the Making of Documentary, he nearly scrapped the project altogether when it resumed following Pina’s death because he could not fathom how the flat surface of the film image could capture adequately the capacity of Pina’s work. However, after seeing James Cameron’s feat with the technology in Avatar, Wenders saw 3D as the perfect way to encapsulate the rawness and primeval aspect of Pina’s work with how well the technology embraced the fullness and textures of the dancers’ bodies.

Perhaps best among the bonus features with the film is the sequence in the Making of documentary in which Wenders details the complexity of shooting a film in 3D. Viewers intrigued in the technology will appreciate the behind-the-scenes look at how two cameras are rigged to capture the same axis of vision, while viewers more keen on the artistic aspects of the film will appreciate Wenders’ perspective on how the team collaborated to create a 3D film that was not effect driven, for he wanted dance to be the attraction not the technology itself. As Wenders’ notes, their aim was to create something that looked so natural so that one forgets about it. The effort is a success, for Pina works as a tribute to the artist, rather than as a showcase for the latest innovations in film form.

It’s a testament to Wenders’ sincere portrayal of Pina’s craft that Pina works as well as a home video release as it does as a theatrical experience. I saw Pina in 3D when it played at the Toronto International Film Festival in the fall of 2011, and the film remains evocative in its stunning Blu-ray transfer. (The depth and clarity of Blu-ray complement the contours of the dancers’ bodies quite beautifully.) Released on a spectacular three-disc special edition from Mongrel Media, film buffs can enjoy Pina on all-three home video formats. The box set includes DVD, Blu-ray, and 3D Blu-ray versions of the film, with a nice package of bonus features on both 2D discs. (Even though the film doesn’t suffer too greatly with the loss of the third dimension, it’s worth having the extra disc.)

Included in the bonus features are the forty-five minute Making of Documentary, as well as roughly forty minutes of deleted scenes. Among the footage cut from the film are many of the “tribute dances” that the members of Pina’s troupe perform as accompaniment, so viewers who are keen to see more of Bausch’s choreography should sample the extra scenes. Also included are the film’s theatrical trailer, a photo gallery, and a set of high-quality collectible postcards. Unfortunately, this special edition doesn’t contain a “How to” feature to teach viewers the steps of Pina’s work, but the added convenience of pausing and rewinding the disc allows fans to dance the night away.

The 3-disc special edition of Pina is distributed in Canada from Mongrel Media and is currently available on Amazon and in retailers wherever quality films are sold.