Friday, 6 May 2011

What's it all about?

Last night I watched Wim Wenders new film about late choreographer Pina Bausch at the cinema. It reminded me of how good art can provide me with such pleasure. The film Pina follows the ensemble of the Tanztheater Wuppertal, the dancers that Bausch worked with for the last twenty odd years of her life. The majority of the film shows the dancers performing their contemporary form of dance not only in the theatre itself but out in the streets and landscapes surrounding the area. There are interviews with the dancers interspersed throughout, but during these interviews the audience is looking at the silent face of the dancer whose voice is heard speaking.

The dance that Bausch worked with is very physical. In her ensembles performances there is no clear plot, no direct story or narrative, there is no definitive meaning. Like all successful art it is about nothing, and it is about everything. There is joy, pain, suffering, the intricate interplay of relationships, power, control, love, loss, none of which is explicitly stated, all expressed through movement and the human body and all interpreted by the viewer. It is simultaneously funny and serious, meaningful and pointless, profound and ludicrous, and it is always obsessive.

I am reminded of a scene in the film Factotum, a fictionalised account of the life of Charles Bukowski, where Matt Dillon’s character Henry Chinaski is in the office of his boss and his boss has discovered that Chinaski is a writer and is working on a novel. The boss asks Chinaski what his novel is about. Chinaski replies “Everything.” To which the boss asks “Is it about...cancer?” Chinaski: “Yes.” Boss: “How about my wife?” Chinaski: “She’s in there too.”

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