By Bryce J. Renninger | Indiewire February 14, 2011 at 6:30AM
3D films took centerstage at the Berlinale yesterday as three films in the festival's main program. Adventurous audience members chanced sore eyes and the fashion faux pas of unwieldy glasses to appreciate three films who utilized 3D technology in fresh and innovative ways.
The fest's 3D Sunday celebrated the world premieres of Michel Ocelot's animated "Tales of the Night" (Les contes de la nuit) and Wim Wenders's dance film "Pina." Werner Herzog's "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" also came into the spotlight for Berlinale's special 3D day.
Only one of the three 3D films is actually up for the fest's main prize, Michel Ocelot's "Tales of the Night." Ocelot, a prolific animator known for his "Kirikou" series of films, creates another world of fairy tales with "Tales of the Night." In the film, two children meet their technician friend at the rundown cinema he works at and the three tell stories, using the mystical movie house to explore the story worlds they create. Ocelot uses silhouettes on trippy multicolored backgrounds to tell his story in a new twist on a traditional animation strategy.
After the fest's screening, the filmmakers, Ocelot at the head, answered questions from members of the press. While members of the audience seemed responsive to the film's unique style, Ocelot felt the need to justify his artistic vision: "We went with a traditional style because I didn't have any cash. As I got more funding, I tried more things. I've used very simple images as in shadow theater before. All of a sudden, I wanted to try the 3D aspect out as well." Ocelot added that he had turned around the film quickly; it only took him a year. Commenting on the speed with which he made the film, he added, "I think we broke records. All the stories were ready, written from when I didn't have a job."
Responding to questions about the limitations and current state of 3D filmmaking, Ocelot opined, "Is it going to last? In a sense, it's limited. We need to get to the point where we forget it's there. There's a new grammar in 3D." Several questions commented that the stories told in the film were fairly conventional fairy tales, adhering to age-old formulas. Ocelot conceded, noting his own sometimes juvenile nature, "I'm at ease with fairy tales. I keep all of my ages inside me."
After the screening of Wim Wenders's "Pina," an often nonplussed Berlin audience gave the film a round of applause. The film, a dance film and profile of the modern dance theater choreographer Pina Bausch, both stages Bausch's dances and explores the mind of the choreographer by showing brief clips of her at work with her dancers and interviewing dancers who worked with her closely. Sometimes Wenders camera stays on a stage, sometimes in front of an audience. Other times, he heads to the streets of Wupperthal (Wenders joked the city's notoriously bad weather luckily hid itself from the film crew) to stage some of Bausch's incredibly affective, dramatic dances.
"Pina" was set to be a collaboration between Wenders and Bausch, but just as the film's production was getting under way, Bausch passed away shortly after being diagnosed with cancer. Wenders explained, "Our idea was to do this film together, and the unimaginable happened and Pina was with us no more. At first, I wanted to cancel the project, but we kept on." He continued, describing the unique production situation: "Pina was always present. Her eyes were looking at us more piercingly after. It was this idea that Pina was watching. It was working through a mourning period. It's probably what you call humility. All of us were deeply aware that we were doing this for Pina."
Finally, the fest's 3D features ended with Werner Herzog's exploration of a recently discovered cave, the Chauvet cave in France and the unbelievable carvings it holds. Like his work on "Encounters at the End of the World," "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" is an exploration of a wide variety of scientists working to find meaning in remote spaces, hidden worlds. The History Channel, who co-financed the film, has U.S. TV rights and IFC will bring the film into U.S. theaters.
As filmmakers seek to explore the possibilities opened up by 3D technology, there is some sense that they're all waiting for something the technology to develop before its true potential can be truly realized. Speaking of the technology, Ocelot conceded, "It's interesting to have new tools," but it's awkward having "glasses sitting at the end of your nose."