Looking back at 1980 East Germany, director Christian Petzold conjures up a dreary Orwellian world of suppressed emotions, police state invasiveness and a simmering yearning for something better. The work of Cinematographer Hans Fromm creates an atmosphere of almost perpetual colourless twilight and Petzold’s laconic scenes and long takes create a subtle but omnipresent feeling of oppression and paranoia.
In a beautifully understated performance Nina Hoss (Barbara) is a doctor whose desire to leave East Germany results in her being punished through relocation to a rural village clinic where she encounters clinic chief Ronald Zehrfeld (Dr. Reiser). Reiser appears to be sympathetic but she is reluctant to trust him. Barbara holds to her desire to be reunited with her western lover but will the Stasi allow it?
“Barbara” is a quiet character piece. It’s a subtle, tense, humanistic drama. The film reminds us that half of Germany was a communist state just twenty-three years ago and what that meant to the people under its rule.
Cast: Nina Hoss, Ronald Zehrfeld, Rainer Bock, Jasna Fritzi Bauer, Mark Waschke.
Awards: Best Film Nuremburg Film Festival 2012. Won nineteen other awards and nominated for fourteen.
Christian Petzold | Germany | 2012 | 105 mins | 12a
Weighted vote 84.4%