• Meta

  • « | Home | »

    Barbara by Christian Petzold

    By Doreen Butze | September 24, 2012

    Nina Hoss, courtesy Piffl Medien

    Nina Hoss, courtesy Piffl Medien

    Barbara ist the new movie directed by Christian Petzold. It’s his third movie after Gespenster (2005) and Yella (2007) and also his Competition entry at this years Berlinale – and it now is Germany’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award for 2013.

    At the beginning of the 1980s in East-Germany: the talented doctor Barbara (Nina Hoss with a great, restrained performance) gets banished from Berlin after trying to get an travel visa. Barbara finds herself in a small northern GDR town. She works in a local hospital there. Her new boss André (Roland Zehrfeld) cares about her, but she is cold and tries to keep distance. She confides in nobody. Subject to a constant observation by a unpleasant Stasi officer (Rainer Bock) she is being even unable to take a step outside the door for riding her bicycle or going for a walk privately.

    Actually she is planning together with her West-German lover Jörg (Mark Waschke) her escape from the GDR across the Baltic Sea.

    After a while all her rejections turn slowly into a slight sympathy for chief physician André, whose real intentions are never quite clear. The bonds were intensified once again as the young and rebellious girl Stella (Jasna Fritzi Bauer) came into the clinic. Barbara has to make a decision …

    Petzolds film doesnt give a blanket judgment about the GDR. The director goes more to the micro level of social relations and tells us a nuanced conflict in decision making. Barbaras dilemma: On one side stands the life of freedom in West Germany with her beloved Jörg. On the other hand, there is the lovefor the profession and the people who need her aid.

    The complexity of the characters is a strength of the film. A telling example: The Stasi officer, who Barbara supervises, is not inherently evil and nasty. He has also a very fragile side when we see him how desperately worried he is about his wife suffering of cancer.

    Well, Barbara also shows a certain lack of emotions; a topic we find in all movies of Christian Petzold. But the audience notices all those feelings are boiling underneath the surface. He prefers to explore grey-areas or gaps in interpersonal relationships. Petzolds regular cinematographer Hans Fromm builds up the tension of genuine stolidity. The very authentically designed decors by K. D. Gruber add up to this.

    The actors play is settled far away from overflowing emotions. Small gestures or facial expressions are enough to show the audience all the turmoil, the weighing up of what is the supposed »right« or »wrong.«

    At least: Everything has just its two or more sides: people and situations, too. The question is what is worth to choose. And for that it takes courage. For me, Barbara was the best Competition entry at the Berlinale this year.

    This review ha been published in KINO – German Film No. 103, p. 20.

    Topics: Misc. | Comments Off on Barbara by Christian Petzold

    Comments are closed.