Most of the reviews I read for Pina were absolute raves, but I did manage to find one that agreed with me and made me feel like a little less of a weirdo. If you love modern dance, contemporary, and ballet, and also have an eye for the abstract in art, you probably will not agree with me. I generally like contemporary and classical ballet, along with other styles of dance, but this documentary was fairly alienating and is definitely aimed at fans of Pina Bausch, the choreographer genius behind the dances in the documentary.
Pina passed away from cancer just five days after she was diagnosed. The film was already in pre-production, but after her passing it became a tribute to her choreography and her genius in the dancing community. The documentary features several dance numbers that she and her company performed during her career, but they are broken apart and are never shown from beginning to end, but rather sprinkled throughout the narrative. They all tend to incorporate elements–earth and water–or obstacles. There is very little dialogue, and when there is, it is usually a brief, somewhat ambiguous statement from one of Pina’s dancers about Pina and her style of teaching and choreographing. There are also original clips of Pina herself in both the studio as well as the stage. She embodies so much of her dance that after watching her, the other dancers seem as if they are chasing her greatness.
From someone who knew nothing about Pina Bausch before the film, I almost know less after watching it. I know her name and that she was a dancer and choreographer. However, the documentary revealed little of her story and her character, but focused mostly on the imagery of her dances and therefore her ideas translated through dance. However, the fact that her dances were broken up made it more difficult to discover their meaning and therefore grow attached to them.
I am not a dancer and therefore the messages did not translate well. I was very confused and bored until the last few minutes, when I was finally able to discover some of my own meaning in a few of the dances. One of the last scenes has the group of dancers doing a certain “line dance,” if you will, along the ridge of a mountain, and I found this shot quite beautiful.
All things said and done, I am glad to cross the documentary Pina off my list and move on to something else. I would not recommend it if, as I mentioned before, you don’t care for modern or contemporary dance and if you would rather there be some dialogue or verbal explanation of story. I am a great lover of story, and there was little depth in that regard for me. However, if you are a lover of dance and a lover of Pina Bausch, please disagree with me and see the film for yourself!