BARBARA —–from Germany in 2012 comes more fine work from the team of director Christian Petzold and arresting leading lady Nina Hoss, peeling away another quiet layer of the crushing desperation that marked life for so many for so long in East Germany.

Set in 1980, as with The Lives Of Others this story eschews dramatic set-pieces with chases, barbed-wire and gunshots in favor of relating the everyday psychic and spiritual claustrophobia induced by omnipresent security, crappy infrastructure, hypocritical pronouncements and the flickering hope of individuals desires subjected to whims of the State and its functionaries. These indignities are mirrored through the lens of the title character, a doctor banished to the provincial backwaters of the wind-swept Baltic coast. Her crime was wishing to emigrate to the West. Despite having gone through incarceration, she yet harbors plans to escape, even as she finds herself both needed and wanted in the rural hospital.


It’s slow-paced—around the one-hour mark I began thinking about how many minutes it had yet to go (it runs for 105)—but it recovered, and the ultimate decisions reached by Barbara result in a dramatic effect thats reward is cumulative .  Cast are all fine, and Nina Hoss is simply impossible to look away from, her emotions tightly reserved but palpable: there’s a lot going on under the visually striking surface. Though German, blonde and slim, she reminds me of Sophia Loren in her best work with De Sica: she’s real, or certainly is utterly convincing at seeming so.

With Ronald Zerhfeld, Rainer Bock and Mark Waschke.


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