While it might not seem apparent at first, given his films haven't made much of a commercial dent in recent years, Wim Wenders, is still ahead of the curve. In 1997, over a decade before its use became prevalent, he shot sequences of his "The End of Violence" film in HD, he cast Michelle Williams as his lead in the little seen "Land Of Plenty" before she became fully noticed in "Brokeback Mountain," and for his latest trick he's shot "Pina," a documentary about the medium of dance in 3D.
While 3D film about expressive dance might not be the typical way to use the stereoscopic medium, Wenders, the filmmaker behind the cherished Criterion-approved-classics “Paris, Texas” and “Wings Of Desire,” thinks the medium is perfectly suited for this new visual tool. To boot, it’s been critically acclaimed and is said to be the front-runner for this year’s European Film Awards Documentary honor, the Prix Arte.
"I think 3D works when the additional dimension is relevant, so in dance it was so obvious," he said during a New York Film Festival Q&A conversation this past weekend moderated by NYFF selection committee member Scott Foundas. "And I was very lucky that my first encounter with 3D was for dance, another medium that as a condition needs space. So I think the storytelling in the future of 3D movies, I think it's relevant that the spirit of the story does need space. It is more obvious in documentaries to take people into someone else's world. But it's not obvious to me at all how 3D can be used properly. I'm sure they're [trying to figure that] out and [trying] to find the film that cracks the code and shows how 3D can be used for the telling of a story, not just the effect. I haven't really seen it [work that way], 'Avatar' in a way, yes, but that's the big exception. I’m not seeing it used with a necessity."
When asked if Hollywood was resistant to his early HD move, he said yes, suggesting this is par for the course. "I think quite often, if they didn't invent it themselves in Hollywood they felt threatened," he said, explaining why this truth is different for 3D. "In a way they have invented 3D themselves so they didn't [feel scared by it], but it's only [because] they invented a 3D that made sense in a certain context -- in that blockbuster context. So for them 3D was strictly an attraction, a way to rake in the money.”
Wenders said, so far, Hollywood is looking at 3D through a financial lens and not an artistic one.
“They've probably felt threatened by the idea that 3D could be a new film language,” he explained. “They saw it as another tool to make the same kind of movies, only maybe a little bit more spectacular. You could raise the prices a little bit, because they have to pay for the glasses, but they continued to make the same kind of movies. They didn't realize the language might have consequences. And I think 3D has amazing consequences if you take it seriously. So far Hollywood hasn't. They're using it as a great attraction. They're using it with a lot of imagination and intelligence in animation films, but in live-action I think they would feel threatened that it is a new language and a revolution.”
Wenders believes it’s up to the auteurs, the Camerons and Scorseses of the world, to show Hollywood how it should be done. And he's on James Cameron 's side in case you were wondering.
“So I think it's up to independent filmmakers to show them that it's a fantastic tool for storytelling," he said. "I think James Cameron is sort of pissed off the way they're using it and he's afraid they are ruining the new language before it can show its potential and he's right. It has to be used with much more imagination then just a roller coaster ride. I'm sure there are hundreds of writers working on that and there's likely many films [planning on using the medium in new ways]. I'm very much looking forward to Martin Scorsese's ['Hugo'] and other directors and authors who will use it and show us what it's meant to be. But so far we're left with [the film that aims for] the buck -- with the exception of 'Avatar.' "