Barbara (2012)

Barbara (2012)

(2012)

Winner of Best Director at the Berlin Film Festival 2012, this slow-burning Cold War drama follows a doctor torn between the West, where her lover has emigrated, and her obligations in the East.... More

Banished from Berlin for trying to obtain a travel visa, Barbara (Nina Hoss) winds up practicing medicine in an East German village. While her partner plans her escape via the Baltic Sea, she grows fond of Andre (Ronald Zehrfeld), the seemingly good-natured boss at her new clinic.Hide

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Flicks Review

In the recent past, communist-era Germany has served as the inspiration for entertaining crowd-pleasers such as Goodbye, Lenin! and The Lives of Others: the former poked fun at the phenomenon of ostalgie (nostalgia for East Germany), while the latter entered the world of Stasi spying to produce a paranoid Orwellian thriller.... More

Christian Petzold’s Barbara, however, takes a far more opaque route into the German Democratic Republic, eschewing narrative comforts to spin a low-key, tenuous romance characterised by its sparse, deliberately paced storytelling and seeming lack of score.

Petzold subtly builds the film around its central character of Barbara Wolff (Nina Hoss), locking the viewer into her perspective of suspicion and fear as a doctor who’s been banished to a rural hospital after getting caught trying to exit the GDR.

Hoss’ performance is hypnotic, a tautly understated modulation of Barbara’s cautious adjustment into her new work environment where she’s supervised by Dr. Reiser (Ronald Zehrfeld), a kindly physician who soon develops feelings for her.

The oppressive atmosphere of the communist regime is ever-present: cinematographer Hans Fromm’s uncluttered compositions highlight Barbara’s aloneness and unease as she lives under the watchful, invasive eye of the Stasi. But Petzold’s film also takes a more interesting, complicated turn into greyer areas when she begins to weigh up her growing sense of responsibility to her patients against her desires to escape to be with her West German lover.

Ultimately transcending itself as another work of Eastern Bloc gloominess, Barbara emerges a hopeful story about a quietly seismic self-awakening.Hide


The Peoples' Reviews

Average ratings from 3 ratings, 3 reviews
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BY freshdude superstar

Barbara fascinated me from the start. Her beauty. Her loneliness. Her suppressed anger, and her poorly concealed sadness. All of it grabbed me as soon as she appeared.
Barbara, surgeon, arrives in a godforsaken corner of East Germany in 1980. Sent there from Berlin for wanting to move to the West, she does not smile. She keeps her apartment empty , as to denounce the nothingness that surrounds her. She is a beautiful captive of a desolate communist world, a heroin dropped in a romantic... More desert. In that world where nothing must disturb the motionless order and the immutable appearances, Barbara's actions are signs. Her bike rides. Her attention to one particular patient. How she refuses the attention of her colleague, who seems to be fascinated with Barbara, like me, and not unlike the local Stasi agent. Her mystery inhabits the film, her secret guides the tale. For her, banned, thrust into a cul-de-sac of the GDR, a life story is slowly recomposed, a story not only of resistance to destructive political regime (as we saw in The Lives of Others).
Christian Petzold is a true auteur in modern cinema in my books.
I loved it.Hide


BY Weds_Loafers superstar

Barbara tells the story of an East German doctor whose application for an exit visa had been rejected by the authorities who, in turn, have banished her from Berlin to a clinic in the provinces. Set in the 1980s and beautifully filmed, the story follows her run-ins with the local Stasi while, at the same time, she is plotting with her West German lover to escape to the West. We also see that aspects of her life in the hospital cause her to have doubts about her future plans. Nine of the... More Wednesday Loafers saw this film and we thought it was good rather than great as it failed to capture the chilling atmosphere of "The Lives of Others" - also set in East Germany in the 1980s.Hide


Christian Petzold's BARBARA is a film with a very deliberate, measured cadence which serves to both heighten the underlying tension and give space to the beautifully framed visuals (comprised, mostly, of scenes from around the small pre-unification East german village the film inhabits). Patient shots of the eponymous BARBARA (a pitch perfect Nina Hoss) cycling along country lanes or peering out from between her lounge curtains. Though the spy story elements of the film are never far off - the... More local police frequently search Barbara's apartment and person, and she clearly participates in underground activity - they are very much backgrounded by the character study of this incredibly wary woman as she slowly adapts to unfamiliar surroundings and the people in them - in particular fellow doctor colleague Andre (Ronald Zehrfeld also in a strong performance). Petzold, Hoss and team have delivered a visually and narratively fascinating feature spacious enough for considered viewing.Hide


The Press Reviews

93% of critics recommend.
Rotten Tomatoes Score. More reviews on Rotten Tomatoes

  • It's one terrific film, as smart, thoughtful and emotionally involving as just about anything that's out there. Full Review

  • A film about the old Germany from one of the best directors working in the new: Christian Petzold. Full Review

  • Not only has director Christian Petzold assembled a fascinating hill of beans, but there's a moonlit scene that almost alone justifies his Silver Bear win at Berlin. Full Review

  • This wise and incisively crafted drama brings simmering intelligence and a dry, sardonic compassion to bear on its tale of two doctors slowly worming their way into each other's hearts and minds. Full Review

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