Barbara – review

Barbara is a departure from distinctive German film-maker Christian Petzold's previous icy thrillers – an elegant drama based on human and political dilemmas

Contemporary German cinema and perhaps even Germany itself are a bit of an unknown quantity in the UK, so it is a pleasure to see another feature from that highly talented and distinctive German film-maker Christian Petzold, who in the past has tended to specialise in icy suspense thrillers. Barbara is slightly different: a drama based on human and political dilemmas. Petzold's favourite star, Nina Hoss, plays Barbara, a doctor in the East Germany of 1980. As a punishment for political insubordination and an application to emigrate to the west, she has been removed from a prestigious position in Berlin and banished to a hospital in the provinces, where she is planning her escape with her lover but is continually harassed by Stasi official Schütz, played by Rainer Bock (a veteran actor, who was the doctor in Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon). But Barbara appears also to captivate an idealistic and handsome colleague, André (Ronald Zehrfeld). Is he falling in love with her?  Is he another Stasi spy? Or both? The weird oppression and seediness of the times is elegantly captured, and Hoss coolly conveys Barbara's highly strung desperation.


Peter Bradshaw

The GuardianTramp

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