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Wim Wenders on Pina

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The mind processes 3D films differently than regular films. Also the brain handles subtitled films in a different manner than films in one’s native language. Pina, a dance documentary by Win Wenders on Pina Bausch’s Tanztheater dance ensemble, unwinds in 3D and with subtitles.

“The brain and the body process images differently, it’s true,” Wenders tells Free Press Houston in a phone interview the morning after Pina is nominated for Best Documentary Picture. “Regular movement can be so close to dance.” Wenders was born in Dusseldorf, which is close to Wuppertal the home of Bausch’s Tanztheater. The project was in the pre-production stage in 2009 when Bausch passed away. At first Wenders wanted to abandon his labor of love. After all the planning and talk Bausch would never see any of the footage. But Wenders also realized the film would be a lasting tribute to his friend.

“The film was shot over the period of one year,” Wenders explains. Many of the early film tests showed the bodies in motion were blurred. At first the equipment was bulky. “We started out using these dinosaur cranes, but a year later the technology and equipment had evolved and we were shooing 3D with a Steadicam,” continues Wenders. Assembling a team of 3D experts and technicians Wenders experimented with different lenses and frame rates. Ideally Wenders found the best way to project the images would be to shoot at 48 or 50 frames-per-second and have the resulting film projected at the same rate. “It could happen but at this point the entire industry is locked into 24 frame projection and they’re not going to change for me. After all James Cameron proposed the same thing when he shot Avatar and they didn’t change for him.” Wenders used two cameras, the huge Sony HDC 1500 and as the shoot progressed the lighter experimental Sony HDC P1. Wenders utilized DigiPrime lenses with focal lengths of 10mm, 14mm and 20mm. “We actually shot 80-percent of the film with the 10mm lens which is the equivalent of a 35mm camera’s 28mm lens. That lens gives the viewer a sense of natural vision.”

At the beginning Wenders shot stage bound footage but a lightweight prototype 3D camera allowed him a new found sense of mobility. “It gives the film a feeling of time, of living and being in the city,” notes Wenders. Taking the dancers outside in Wuppertal, Wenders utilized the landscape and several scenes on the elevated train system, which Wenders notes was built in 1900.

Film fans familiar with world cinema know the lengthy filmography of Wenders. I ask him whether one of my favorite films, The American Friend (Der amerikanische Freund), will be released in blu-ray. “Yes,” says Wenders. “Criterion has released Paris, Texas and Wings of Desire in blu-ray, with upcoming plans for Alice in the Cities and American Friend.” Asking about Wender’s first film Summer in the City brings out a hearty laugh. “You’re opening old wounds. I was a young and naïve and didn’t clear rights for the music. There’re songs by Hendrix, The Kinks, obviously the Lovin’ Spoonful, Dylan; all of them combined would be impossible to clear rights and pay royalties so I’m afraid that film will never get a DVD release.” Pina 3D opens this weekend.

- Michael Bergeron

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