Art-house cinema broke into the next dimension at the Berlin film festival Sunday with hotly awaited 3D premieres from European veterans seeking to reclaim the format from Hollywood blockbusters.
German Oscar-nominated directors Wim Wenders and Werner Herzog unveiled features that push the limits of 3D cinema, which until now had been a money-spinning vehicle for mass-market movies like "Avatar" and "Toy Story 3".
And France's Michel Ocelot presented "Tales of the Night", a fairy tale in 3D based on his silhouette animation television special. The film is in the running for the festival's Golden Bear top prize, to be awarded Saturday.
Wenders's "Pina", which won warm applause at a press preview, showcases the work of the late German choreographer Pina Bausch.
He said he had long struggled with how to bring the trademark graceful athleticism and emotional rawness in Bausch's work to life on screen and found the answer when he saw a groundbreaking U2 concert film in 3D at Cannes in 2007.
"I never knew if my craft would tell me how to do justice to it," the "Buena Vista Social Club" director told reporters.
"And I felt only when the dimension of space was added to our language that I was able to enter the dancers' very own realm. So that's why it took so long."
The film was conceived as a collaboration with Bausch but her sudden death in 2009 nearly led Wenders to abandon the project.
It was the dancers from her Tanztheater Wuppertal in the Ruhr valley, where Bausch worked for more than 35 years, who convinced him to press on.
The picture takes the choreography from the rehearsal stage to the city's roughly beautiful industrial spaces. Intercut are interviews with the performers, who were still mourning Bausch's loss, adding a strong emotional undercurrent to the film.
"Pina was in a very powerful way always there," Wenders said of the filming. "She was always looking over my shoulder and I would ask her, 'Pina, am I doing this right?'," he said.
Meanwhile Ocelot's film tells the story of two children who go on a magical journey when they spend the night in an old rundown movie house.
The visually arresting picture creates a fantasy world of golden cities, impenetrable forests, werewolves and talking horses.
"3D adds a bit of charm, a little bit of innocent magic, like being beneath a meteor shower and having the time to watch it," Ocelot told AFP.
"But it is not a revolution, it does not change a lot - you are surprised at first, pleasantly I hope, but quickly you forget the 3D."
Herzog's documentary "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" shines a light on what are believed to be the world's oldest cave paintings, in southern France.
The 400 haunting murals in the Chauvet Pont d'Arc cave in the Ardeche valley were only discovered in 1994 and are thought to be more than 30,000 years old.
The cave is closed to the public to protect the precious drawings. Herzog was tapped as the sole film-maker to present them to the world.
A specially built hand-held camera captured the paintings in relief, revealing how the ancient artists used the grotto's own contours to add nuance to their work.
Some viewers said the shaky camera - a hallmark of independent cinema - combined with the 3D effect left them a bit queasy at times but the breathtaking views of the off-limits artwork more than compensated for it.
Critics and film buffs had eagerly awaited this batch of 3D cinema as an aesthetic breakthrough.
Samantha Taylor, co-producer of the 3D urban drama "The Mortician" screening at the festival, noted that the format was only as valuable as the material behind it.
"We have to use 3D in a more emotional way," she told a panel discussion on 3D. "It's not only about daggers flying into your eyes."Reuse content