Billed as the official Berlinale 3D-day, Sunday 13 February saw the premieres of three 3D films, screening in and out of competition. Although the films could have not been further apart in terms of style and content, surprisingly, all three turned out to be mostly enjoyable and fascinating in their own right. It started with Michel Ocelot’s beautiful animated Tales of the Night (Les contes de la nuit), but the main event (and for me the best 3D venture on offer) was Pina, Wim Wenders’s widescreen tribute to the German choreographer and dancer Pina Bausch, who died in June 2009, two days before shooting was due to start. Originally planned as a collaboration with Wenders when Bausch was still alive, the film links some hauntingly beautiful dance scenes from four of her most successful works, Café Müller, Vollmond, Kontakthof and The Rite of Spring, with brief statements by the dancers of her Wuppertal dance company. Much more effective than these snaps of interviews, however, are the sequences in which the dancers then develop their thoughts about their adamant teacher in their own personal choreographies in an imaginative range of indoor and outdoor settings. Although first and foremost a dance film in 3D, Pina is also a wonderfully rich and powerful cinematographic experience that will enthral not only hardcore Bausch enthusiasts but all audiences.
Cave of Forgotten Dreams
We loved Werner Herzog’s most recent feature works (Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?) and his new documentary sees him on equally good form as he enters the Chauvet Cave in the Ardèche Valley in southern France to explore its astonishing and mysterious content. Herzog managed to get permission from the French government (who owns the cave) to film the oldest known cave paintings, which were sealed for over 20,000 years and are hidden from the world for fear human breath will damage them. He is accompanied by a small camera team and some of the scientists who have been analysing every scratch on the inner walls of the cave since its discovery in 1994. Although the maverick German filmmaker was at first sceptical about the use of 3D for his latest venture, it perfectly fits the dimensions and shape of the curved, uneven and shadow-casting surfaces that form the canvas for drawings of animals, including horses, bison, bears, owls, rhinos and hyenas. As the camera moves across, they seem to become almost animated through light effects. But as could be expected, Herzog goes beyond a simple visual exploration of the cave. As with all of his documentaries, the cave paintings mainly serve as the entry point into a wider reflection, and his narration and expert sources are as educational as they are eccentric and entertaining. Even if you don’t appreciate the director’s tendency to treat every subject like the plot for a grand opera, it’s his great talent to stimulate our sense of wonder that makes his work so fascinating and Cave of Forgotten Dreams is no exception.