I was a reluctant viewer because it was clear from the beginning that I still didn't 'get' it - what did it all mean? But visually, physically, this film ended up astounding me. It has stuck with me such that I can't stop thinking about it.
As a documentary, it doesn't do much to reveal its subject. It doesn't say much about how this woman thought, how she felt, her journey and what influenced it, what tortured her, what she was in denial about and how she related to the wider society. These are the revelations I expect in a 'great' documentary film. Films such as 'Man on Wire', 'Grizzly Man' or 'When We Were Kings'. Maybe those things are communicated though the dance itself. I don't know. Almost the whole film is dancing, interspersed with very short recollections from individual dancers. What these do get across are that Pina Bausch had a way of communicating with people and a depth of feeling that is unusual and wonderful. Those who worked with her (at least those that were interviewed) have the greatest love and admiration for her and what she was able to bring out of them. I ended up with a great feeling of admiration for her myself. Perhaps that was the point of the documentary.
But for me, it was the dancing and the way it was filmed that was astounding. It comes across with such intensity, such belief and such love, that I almost became a fan of contemporary dance. The sheer physicality. The bodies and what people could do with them. The beauty of movement. It is simply a joy to watch.
The quality of the visuals is startling. I saw it at a local arts centre which has a very good screen but I've never seen anything as sharp and as detailed as this. And the colours seemed more vivid than is usual. It was like discovering a new form of super high definition film. I understand it was filmed in 3D although I saw the 2D version. Still, it was amazing to watch. The way it is filmed also seems to work very well. It seems pretty straightforward. Most of the dance sequences are filmed quite simply on stage, but the framing seems to bring out the subjects well, even in 2D. Wenders has also filmed individual dancers or pairs of dancers in various outdoor locations - a city street, a road intersection, a train, an open cast mine. These little pieces are so beautiful and so unexpected. There is even one that is intentionally funny, where a girl gets on a train and pretends to be a robot monster. It's hilarious! So, for me a wonderful surprise. I still didn't end up understanding much of what Pina Bausch was trying to communicate but I enjoyed watching her try.