The German director talks about his 3D film Pina, world premiering out of competition in Berlin this week, which explores the work of the renowned choreographer Pina Bausch.

What were the greatest challenges for you working in 3D?

The thing was: nobody could really tell me much about it. The few people who worked with the medium had worked under rather different conditions. I had the 3D pioneer in Europe at my side, Alain Derobe, but he had also never done a feature film in 3D before. But he also knew a lot about the physiological aspect of 3D which was utterly important.

The challenge was to find a different approach to 3D. Instead of that “blockbuster attraction” feeling, Alain and I wanted to create a very natural style, a total ease of looking at things, so that the film could be elegant and fluid and you would forget after a while that it was in 3D. We learned not to move the camera too fast and to have almost no more lens changes.

Apart from Alain’s technical know-how, there was no experience to build on. The biggest problem was stroboscoping. Our dancers would often move quickly, and that is difficult in 3D. Every little flaw in shooting on film is magnified, even quadrupled in 3D.

Do you actively seek out new challenges with each film?

Not exactly, but here the new technology was the answer to the question that Pina Bausch and I had had for 25 years. The fact that we didn’t make the movie in, say, 1995 or 2000 was that I simply didn’t know how to do it. How to film dance appropriately? Pina was a person you couldn’t lie to, she would see right through it. So when she asked “We’ve talked so much about a film, why don’t we do it?” I had to admit that I couldn’t do it much differently from any run-of-the-mill TV recording. Maybe a bit better, but not essentially better. But that wasn’t good enough! It was seeing my first digital 3D film, that concert film “U2 in 3D” which opened up a whole new door for me.

How has the reaction been to the film from the dancers of the Tanztheater?

I was very nervous and anxious. More than anybody else’s I needed their approval. I hadn’t shown them anything before, only to Dominik and Robert, the Artistic directors. And naturally it was very emotional after working on this film together for so long. For the dancers even more than for me: After all, their past is laid out in front of them, but also the responsibility they have for the future of this magnificent work that Pina Bausch left them with.

Can you see yourself continuing with 3D for future projects?

It could be hard to go “back to normal” now. I must say I am bit addicted to 3D. I have made another two short films in the format. It might be interesting to see what happened to the flat image and my perception of it, if I go back. But right now I would rather go on in 3D because I have the feeling that I’ve only just scratched the surface of what is possible, and have not even looked into storytelling.