Barbara (2012) Poster

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Living and (not) loving in East Germany
Ruben Mooijman17 September 2012
Warning: Spoilers
It looks as if the communist rule in former East Germany is a nice source of inspiration for German film makers. First, there was the light-hearted comedy Goodbye, Lenin. Then, the heart wrenching drama Das Leben der Anderen. And now, there's Barbara. Another drama about a human being whose life is ruined by the regime.

The film is mainly about trust. Or, about not being able to trust anyone in a police state like East Germany. Barbara is a doctor who is banned from Berlin and put to work in a hospital in a provincial town in the north of the country. Soon enough, we find out why: she has a lover in West Germany and wants to escape from the country. She is bitter and full of resentment, but cares a lot about her patients, especially about a young girl who lives in a nearby labour camp and turns out to be pregnant.

Several times, we learn how oppressive this country was. 'No one can be happy here', says Barbara when her lover proposes to come and live with her in the East. 'I want my baby to go away', says the pregnant girl, and she doesn't mean abortion. 'Do you think they will let me go if I marry him?', asks a girl who also has a Western lover. 'No', is Barbara's short and clear answer.

The film is very strong in atmosphere, but there is also suspense. There are even some Hitchcock-like moments. One is a scene where Barbara tries to locate a colleague, and finds him in the house of the Stasi-officer who has searched her apartment. It makes you wonder if the doctor, too, is a Stasi-informant. One of the other strong points is the acting. Nina Hoss is very convincing as the bitter, distrustful Barbara, who only really can relax in the company of her Western lover. And there is the cinematography, that adds to the almost claustrophobic atmosphere. The camera hardly moves, the shots are static and show exactly what needs to be showed.

The end is quite surprising, and adds a nice and meaningful twist to a beautiful movie.
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much more accurate than 'Lives of Others'
Radu_A20 November 2012
It's a challenging task to depict a bygone era which hasn't yet passed into history, but is a living memory in the minds of many. Distant events may be easily interpreted at will, because no spectator can expect a minute reconstruction of a reality past. Adaptations of recent events, however, fall under close scrutiny of those who were actually there, and any attempt to 'tell the whole story' will invariably meet with criticism from those who feel left out of the picture, or who remember differently. It is therefore the best solution for the film maker to focus on atmosphere rather than events, and a simple story rather than a complex rendition of society as a whole. And that's what director/ screenwriter Christian Petzold does: he tells the story of a doctor, displaced from the capital to the province for an application to leave the country, and confronting an atmosphere of distrust while preparing her escape to the West. This routine of hostility is a little ameliorated by the interest of a male colleague, who may however be an assigned informer, and the friendship to a pregnant patient, who apparently escaped from a juvenile offenders camp only to be recaptured.

What makes me consider this film as far superior to the much lauded, Oscar-winning 'The Lives of Others' is that it does not sacrifice atmosphere to film making conventions. For instance, there is no music, because there was no music. 'The Lives of Others' tormented any actual witness of the times it described with a sappy soundtrack. It also did not correspond to my recollections of East Germany because it limited the supervision of ordinary citizens to the Stasi ('State Security') and its collaborators. It did point out that this supervision was omnipresent, but it created a division between good and evil which was slowly eroded from the evil side's end. 'Barbara', however, focuses on the way ordinary citizens, not intellectuals, were treated, and the fact that virtually everyone collaborated in the supervision of the individual, whether they were working with the Stasi or not. Barbara is fully aware of her situation, and tries to make friends with her colleague/informer André Reiser to win him over to her side, while at the same time not giving anything away about herself. Reiser, on the other hand, tries to gain her trust as a person, because he needs her competence at work and may be romantically interested in her, while at the same time fulfilling his obligations to report on her.

This constant game of hide and seek illustrates what Socialism was really like - a permanent grey zone in which you had to measure your steps carefully and no clear distinctions between good and evil existed, as 'The Lives of Others' would have you believe; and the young patient side characters show that quite a few cracked under this immense pressure. By focusing on one woman's story, director Petzold delivers an accurate portrait of the realities of life at that time: it did not matter whether you were good at your job or not, and being too good made you automatically suspicious, while being lazy made you the target of accusations of boycotting society; it was dangerous to open up to colleagues, because they would almost certainly be inquired about what you said, but at the same time it was dangerous to distance yourself, because then you'd be suspected of having something to hide. Everything was tactics, nothing was spontaneous, everybody wanted to get out, but chastised those who actually tried. This authenticity has probably prompted this film's selection as the German candidate for the foreign language Oscar 2013, but it may also have hampered its chances to win the Golden Bear upon its premiere at the Berlin Film Festival, where Petzold won the director's prize though. Realism makes for an accurate portrayal of the recent past, but for those who have not been there, 'Barbara' may be a bit too stiff and gloomy, because it does not compromise its authenticity to the expectations of (Western) audiences.
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A Somber and Compelling Film
doug_park200129 December 2013
BARBARA may be a little too slow and humorless for many tastes, but it's one of those films that's so real it hardly seems like a film at all. You have to admire the stark realism here. Whether you want to go there or not, this film truly takes you to a secluded province of East Germany, 1980. BARBARA affords an acute look at the inside of a totalitarian state. While it doesn't show a whole lot in this regard, what it does is shown most effectively. The lack of any soundtrack--something I didn't even notice while viewing but that one of the reviews on Amazon pointed out--only adds to BARBARA's immediacy. Quietly immersing, with a real surprise at the end. Excellent cinematography and fine acting by all.
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A glimpse into the DDR way of solving problems
OJT19 May 2013
Warning: Spoilers
The clever doctor Barbara Wolf is by the authorities placed out in the provincial parts of the Eastern German Republic, die DDR. We're in 1980, nine years before the fall of the Berlin wall and the Iron curtain. She has a lover from the free West Germany, and wants to move to the West, which is out if question for the paranoid communist government, which became famous for the surveillance techniques and spying systems. It's later revealed that 1/7th of the population was forced to spy on others, even family members, to prevent opposition, as well as getting too much contact with Western ideas and ideologies.

In the province she meets another clever doctor placed in the province after a mishap pending at a Berlin hospital. Or is this just a cover up story of a spying agent? Barbara can't tell. She knows there are possible spies all over. She rightfully trusts no one. For her it's an impossible idea for her lover to move over to Eastern Germany, as opposed to her getting to the West.

For those living today it's almost impossible to comprehend how it was like to live in DDR (Eastern Germany) during the communist years. It was a society impossible to imagine, only possibly equaled today by North Korea. The state intelligence police, Stasi, was almost everywhere, planting spies and surveillance equipment.

This film doesn't explain the system. You're just put right into it. This might make it hard to understand without having the knowledge of how extreme this society was, almost like George Orwell's great and scary novel "1984" in real life. Barbara is under constant surveillance when she's not far away from people. She's so suspected to do illegal things, that she frequently body and anally strip searched when the Stasi visits her.

I visited Eastern Germany 1988, before the wall came down. The visit marked me for life, both as a Westerner and a Norwegian being able to visit ad a tourist, where they equaled the value of Western currency marks to the Eastern marks, though only valued 1/20th. Still they thought they could keep the longing for the Western freedom from being planted into the DDR-inhabitants. I visited the concentration camp Sachsenhausen, and I experienced the railways where there was no smile to see, the feel of total depression and bleak or hardly any colored lights, as an opposite to the sparkling neon lights of the West, and the total surveillance of the center of Berlin. No western lyrics and western music was allowed, hardly any Western cars. If it could have any kind of opposition interpreted into it, or dreams of the Western freedom, it was disallowed. If you tried to flee to the West, you would be instantly shot! I was terrified for four hours in my last trip back to Western Berlin was halted for four hours when they took my passport and ran away with it.

Today it seems we're not afraid of being under constant surveillance. This is just another reminder of how terrible it s not to have a free will, and not have the right to your own life. It's so inhumane and humiliating. But we're in our way right into the same kind of society.

It's a very god film, but the understated telling and explaining is really too difficult to understand for most today. When Barbara is giving away her opportunity to flee, she's giving up her dreams of freedom. I think most without having the background to understand this, will understand the film. For most it will seem slow and leave too many questions. So read yourself up on what the DDR-politics where before you see this.

And remember that freedom is something we can't give away! Ever!
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Physicians Behind the Iron Curtain
georgep5328 December 2012
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 colorless 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. Jasna Fritzi Bauer is Stella a young girl who constantly escapes juvenile work camps seeking refuge at the clinic. Mark Waschke is Jorg a well-to-do foreigner who loves Barbara and offers to help her escape to Denmark where they can be together. Rainer Bock is a Stasi officer who periodically subjects Barbara to strip searches in an attempt to harass and prevent her from fleeing.

"Barbara" is a quiet character piece. It's a subtle, tense, humanistic drama not ideally suited for audiences of plot-driven pictures. Nina Hoss deserves serious consideration from the Academy as hers is one of the best performances by an actress this year.
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A compelling and riveting film
Howard Schumann31 March 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Set in Communist East Germany in the early 1980s, cold war paranoia is in full view in Christian Petzold's Barbara, winner of the Silver Berlin Bear for Best Director at the Berlinale. In Barbara, Petzold has fashioned not only a superb character study but a film that illuminates the effects of oppression on the human psyche, an oppression that ended in Germany only with the dismantling of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of East and West many years later. The film shows the East German security apparatus' (Stasi) use of intimidation and disorientation as tools in operating a system of control and surveillance directed at those suspected of opposing the GDR.

Portrayed by Nina Hoss in a performance of remarkable nuance and authenticity, Barbara, an East Berlin doctor, has been exiled to a small clinic in the provinces after applying for an exit visa to visit her boyfriend in the West. She is a tall, stately, and attractive woman, yet taciturn and distant, her face filled with an indescribable sadness. Trying to serve her patients as best she can, she knows that she is under surveillance by the Stasi, particularly by Officer Klaus Schutz (Rainer Bock), who does not hesitate to conduct unannounced searches of Barbara's apartment, even her person, and whose presence in her life is all too visible.

Not knowing whom to trust, thinking (perhaps rightly so) that her friends and colleagues may be police informants, Barbara's aloofness leads her colleagues to give her the nickname of "Berlin" to describe what they think is her big-city attitude. On the job, however, she does not allow her fears to get in the way of her professional responsibilities and her relationship with her patients shows her hidden warmth. Dr. André Reiser (Ronald Zehrfeld), a soft-looking, slightly heavy-set doctor, solicits her friendship and offers repeatedly to drive her home but she keeps him at arms length, suspicious of his possible connections.

In spite of this tense atmosphere, Barbara manages to befriend Stella (Jasna Fritzi Bauer), a young patient who escaped from a work camp at Torgau. Correctly diagnosing her with Meningitis, a diagnosis that the other doctors had overlooked, she reads The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to her in the evening, a story of two people on the run. More tension is added when we see Barbara's surreptitious exchange of black market cigarettes and packets of money with people unknown. In a rapturous meeting with her West German lover Jorg (Mark Waschke) in a secluded forest area, she is given the choice of leaving the country with him, reassured that, because of his circumstances, she would no longer have to work.

Barbara and her friend make plans, but her growing relationship with André and ties to young Stella become complicating factors. André's own story of how he ended up in the village only adds to her confusion and uncertainty. Barbara is an understated gem that never hits us over the head with its message but leaves no doubt about its implications. While the film depicts the circumstances in a particular country, it transcends its limitations to become a universal experience. A compelling and riveting film, it begins in resignation and ends in transformation.
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Definitely Worth It
JackCerf8 March 2013
The story is set in East Germany in 1980, when it looked like Communism would last forever. Central character is Dr. Barbara Wolff, played by the classically beautiful blonde Nina Hoss, who I've previously seen in A Woman In Berlin. Dr. Wolff was a fast track young doctor at the Charite, the big teaching hospital in Berlin, before she fell in love with a West German businessman and applied for an exit visa. That got her a short spell in prison for ingratitude to the workers and farmers who paid for her medical education, together with a transfer to a one horse town in Mecklenburg, where she seems to be the second doctor in a two doctor pediatric clinic. We know all this because, as she is getting off the bus, the local Stasi man is going through her file with Andre, the head doctor at the clinic. Andre is what they used to call an Inoffiziale Mitarbeiter, or unofficial cooperator. We find out why later on. He's also an attractive, shambling 30 something bachelor in a kind of teddy bear way, a skilled, dedicated doctor with a good bedside manner, and, notwithstanding his work as an informer, a pretty decent guy by the standards of the time and place.

Barbara twigs immediately that Andre's an informer when he offers her a lift home from work on the first day. As they drive through an intersection in his piece of crap Trabant, she says, "you were supposed to ask me which way to turn, but then, you already know where I live." She is resentful, understandably so, and standoffish, which the clinic staff put down to stuck up Berlin attitude. That may have something to do with the open surveillance by the Stasi guy and regular searches of her apartment, complete with strip searches by a female agent. But Barbara is also a first class doctor who takes a real interest in her patients. Andre is quietly smitten -- if you've seen Hoss you'll know why -- and keeps chipping away at her resistance. Despite knowing who else he works for, she can't help responding.

What neither Andre nor the Stasi agent know is that Barbara is contriving to meet her Wessi boyfriend when he's in the East on business, and they're scheming to smuggle her out. He's crazy about her, even saying that he'd move East if she wants, but there are slight intimations that life in the West with him might not be exactly as she's dreamed of. In any event, there's a lot of sneaking about, and Hoss has a good line in tense body language and over the shoulder glances. Everybody knows everybody's business in a small town anyway, and in a small town in Mecklenburg, your landlady, your co-workers, or anyone you pass on the street could be an informer.

Complications ensue, involving Andre, the escape plan, and Barbara's obligations to two young patients in whom she has taken a special interest. I won't tell you how they play out, except that nothing goes quite as expected. The movie gives you a very good sense of a society in which everyone is compromised in some way, trust and intimacy are not really possible, but life has to go on nevertheless. It's not as showy as The Lives of Others, but it gives a better sense of what everyday life was like in the German Democratic Republic, where it has been estimated that there was one Stasi employee for every 165 citizens and one informer for every 6.5.
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Change of heart
Lin Patty15 September 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Barbara has a lover who comes from west Germany. She is herself from the east. The year is 1980. The only thing she wants is to go to the west, joining her lover, and be free. "You will not have to work, I have enough income for both of us" says her lover.

Stasi soon finds out about her intention and exiles her to a small town by the sea. It is not Berlin where she comes from. It is not a prestigious hospital where she used to work, but a local, small one. "Nobody can be happy here", she claims. Can't she?

She keeps distance at her new work. After all, it was just a stop over before she joins her lover in the West. But there are patients that she really cares for. There is work that she loves doing. And there is this open-hearted, sympathetic doctor that seems to have affection for her.

This is a love story, told subtly. Looks and expression say more than a thousands words; this is the strength of this movie, compared to other so many girl meets boy stories. Love changes Barbara. It makes her sacrifice what seems to be her most dearest: freedom.   It changes her beliefs: perhaps she can be happy after all, as long as she does what she loves the most and be with someone that cares for her.
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Rather stunning and transporting in all its restraint
secondtake27 November 2013
Barbara (2012)

A somber, tightly scripted, almost old-fashioned film. I can picture this in black white, or a movie not only set in 1980 but shot then, too. I mean this all as a compliment.

It's key to know that this is Communist East Germany, a closed country under Soviet influence and generally struggling to keep up with West Germany. The doldrums depicted, and the lower quality of medical care at this small provincial clinic, are very real.

The title character is a downtrodden doctor who was caught trying to escape to the West, and was sent to the boondocks as punishment. And she is periodically searched by the authorities, who go through her apartment, her body cavities, her entire personal life while she passively waits. It's awful. And very real.

There is a steady vague story line showing Barbara's contacts to sympathetic Germans, and it seems one or two of them are visiting now and then from the West. Clandestine meetings with money (and sex) continue in the woods, but these are minor points in her steady work as a doctor in the clinic.

More important, it turns out, is the cute and steady-handed male doctor who runs the clinic. She doesn't trust him. If he asks questions out of curiosity she isn't sure if he's a spy or just a nice guy. We aren't sure either. His life is simple and has simple pleasures, and he likes her and tries to make her open up and actually smile, which turns out to be the hardest thing in the whole movie.

Barbara's plans to escape seem to be threatened by her job commitment, which she can't shirk because it'll draw attention to her irregularities. And so things go in this windy, North German countryside. It's so beautifully, patiently wrought, you have to watch and wait, just as passively as Barbara. It's sad, for sure, and yet there are these small glimmers. For one thing, there is the idea that no matter what your circumstances there is always the ability to be good and to do good. The male doctor is the example of this, and Barbara begins to see something more genuine at work than her own superficial (we assume) strivings for a consumerist West.

It's odd to see such a balanced and yet truthful view of Communist Germany. The oppression is real and bad, but the strivings of regular people (doctors and others) make hope possible. I loved this movie, even though fairly little happens, and there are few turns of the plot that are clearly for dramatic impact more than an integral building of character. But these are small caveats. The total effect is simple and penetrating, with a beautiful ending.
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"Rarely graceful mystery..."
Sindre Kaspersen15 October 2012
German screenwriter and director Christian Petzold's sixth feature film which he co-wrote with Czech-born German screenwriter, producer and director Harun Farocki, premiered In competition at the 62nd Berlin International Film Festival in 2012, was screened in the Contemporary World Cinema section at the 37th Toronto International Film Festival in 2012, in the Horizons section at the 47th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in 2007, was shot on location in Kirchmöser, in the town of Brandenburg an der Havel in Brandenburg, Germany and is a German production which was produced by German producer Florian Koerner von Gustorf. It tells the story about a female doctor in East Germany named Barbara who as a consequence of having signed a petition saying that she wishes to leave the German Democratic Republic, is sent to a small town near the capital city of Germany where she is to live and work at a paediatric surgery department. There she is introduced to her new boss named André who is assigned to supervise her.

Distinctly and precisely directed by German filmmaker Christian Petzold, this fictional, suspenseful and somewhat historic period drama which is narrated mostly from the protagonist's point of view, draws a carefully structured and concentrated portrayal of a woman whom whilst awaiting her opportunity to flee to West Germany to be with her lover and despite her predetermined attitude towards her new place of residence, begins to appreciate and care for her patients and her colleagues. While notable for its colorful and naturalistic milieu depictions, sterling cinematography by German cinematographer Hans Fromm, production design by production designer Kade Gruber, fine costume design by UK-born German costume designer Anette Guther, film editing by film editor Bettina Böhler and use of sound, colors and light, this character-driven and narrative-driven story about some of the many people who wanted to emigrate from communist DDR, depicts a dense study of character and contains a good score by composer Stefan Will.

This quiet, nuanced, rhythmic and fragmented chamber-piece which is set against the backdrop of the socialist state of East Germany during a bright summer in the 1980s, which has been chosen as Germany's official submission to the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 85th Academy Awards in 2013 and where a male doctor immediately takes a liking to a woman he doesn't know has a lover in West Germany and is planning to escape, is impelled and reinforced by its cogent narrative structure, subtle character development and continuity, underlying romantic tension, harmonic and foreboding atmosphere and the efficiently understated acting performances by German actress Nina Hoss in her fourth collaboration with Christian Petzold and German actor Ronald Zehrfeld who had a minor though noticeable role in German screenwriter and director Christian Schwochow's "Die Unsichtbare" (2011). A genuinely humane love-story and a rarely graceful mystery which gained, among other awards, the Silver Bear for Best Director Christian Petzold at the 62nd Berlin Film Festival in 2012.
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Sparse, real and very good
paul2001sw-11 May 2014
This brilliant German film explores two fundamental questions: whether it is possible to collaborate with a fundamentally oppressive state, and the acute degree of personal loneliness felt by those who cannot, and whom the state thereby treats as its enemies. The mundane depersonalisation of life under the Stasi is captured much more acutely, it seems to me, in this story than in the more acclaimed 'The Lives of Others'; that the leading collaborator is arguably a decent and attractive person, albeit one who has made different choices to the admirable but not wholly likable heroine, adds subtlety and humanity to the overall portrait of society. Both protagonists are excellent in their roles; the camera-work captures the underlying feelings of alienation in a way that reminded me of early Kieslowski. 'Barbara' is by turns bleak, poetic, emotional and thought-provoking: it deserves to be more widely known.
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That Wall did come down!
jdesando23 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
In the semi-darkness of 1980 East Germany, it's cold and dangerous. No more so than if you want to travel to freedom, as the titular doctor of Barbara (Nina Hoss) wishes to do. Except that her visa application ended her up in the provinces, a long way from her elite hospital in Berlin.

The tension in this intelligently-paced, smartly European character study cum thriller is palpable as Stasi agents stalk the doctor, searching relentlessly for the money she must have to plan her defection. Freedom becomes the leitmotif touching each plot point, whether it is her growing affection for her colleague, Andre (Ronald Zehrfeld), her passion for her West German lover, Jorg (Mark Waschke), or her humane love for her patients, especially her pregnant meningitis waif, Stella (Jasna Fritzi Bauer), whom she saves and protects.

Director Christian Petzold (whose family fled the German Democratic Republic) fashions a mise en scene uncluttered with people or objects, like the immaculate hospital itself. Even the film's pace is measured, at times almost listless. It's as if life has been pared down to its essential living or dying.

Nowhere is this sparseness more on display than in Dr. Barbara herself, a model of smug efficiency and secret longings, riding a bicycle to work like a schoolgirl who knows much more than she is giving out. Hanks Fromm's camera offers color and vibrancy during these times, a relief from the gloomy confines of her apartment. Her paranoia about everyone she works with, including Dr. Andre, partially creates this aura of self-centeredness more than the "Berlin" pride that others see.

The road she takes to work is lined with trees that blow ferociously with the ever present wind, like the ominous presence of local Stasi officer Klaus (Rainer Bock), who lets her know by random searches of her apartment and person that she will not escape. Her plans to go to Denmark form the action center of the film that in the end is really about the heart that beats under repression and the love that grows out of seemingly impossible freedom. That big Wall did come down, I recall!
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A Quiet, Simple, and Elegant Film
yagian14 September 2013
I visited Eastern Europe, Berlin, Prague, and Budapest, in March 1990. At that time, the Berlin Wall had already been fallen down, but Germany had not reunited yet.

People could freely come and go over the borders between East and West Germany. I went through Checkpoint Charlie to East Berlin, and I visited retro-future TV tower and saw Ladas running on street.

In a night train from Berlin to Prague, I asked a passenger who sat next to me if Germany would reunite in a year, and he answered that he didn't believe it would happen so early. In fact, Germany reunited in October 1990.

Although I actually visited East Berlin, now, it is hardly for me to believe that the half of Germany was a communist state just twenty-three years ago.


"Barbara" is a German film about people living in East Germany in 1980. Barbara is a female doctor, who was watched by the secret police.

It is one of the greatest German films that I have ever seen. There is no exaggeration and omission in this film. Every element in it is necessary, and I couldn't find that any things were unnecessary.

This film is very quiet, because there is no background music. That makes audience concentrated in every tiny sound. Barbara was always nervous about the secret police, so she got surprised when the doorbell started to ring, and the audience also got really surprised with the sound of the doorbell, and fully understood her emotion.

Nina Hoss, as Barbara, was also great and attractive. She didn't overplay at all, but accurately expressed how Barbara felt in her mind. After seeing her performance, most actors and actress became to look unnatural.

This film is a quiet, simple, and elegant. If you love films, I strongly recommend you to see it.
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Rare Snapshot of Life of an Educated Strong Woman in Eastern Germany
Sebastian Ants23 October 2012
Warning: Spoilers
It will be difficult to understand for anyone not familiar with the "Stasi" problem in the former DDR, so I really recommend to non natives to do a little research before watching this.

It is a portrait of a a physician (Nina Hoss) who had a disciplinary transfer from an university clinc OstBerlin/ DDR to a small hospital somewhere on the countryside. There she is still being spied on by the Stasi. The chief physician of the hospital likes her but is constantly rejected because she fears he is also a collaborator.

The movie gave me a real good feeling under which oppression intellectuals must have suffered in the Stasi era, especially how this constant climate of mistrust negatively influenced their ability to building normal relationships to any other/new people.

Acting by main actors, scenery and screenplay are excellent.

To me in general most movies from Germany are very uninspiring, this country could do so much better, But this one is outstanding, one of the best things coming from there in the last years.

9/10 only for the little bit unrealistic ending (which I will not reveal of course)
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Could have been so much more
turners-120 November 2012
Warning: Spoilers
This film was shown last night at the Bath Film Festival, and was a sell out. Personally, it was a huge disappointment. Let me begin by saying that my wife spent the first 12 years of her life in a communist state, leaving Hungary in 1964: I would add that we spent many long holidays in Hungary before 1989, which on more than one occasion involved making use of the Hungarian health service. So I would start my review by saying that in the details of the East German health service, and of life behind the Iron Curtain generally, the film has it spot on - the lack of drugs, poor hygiene, buildings (homes and hospital) falling to bits, rubbish cars (a senior doctor has a Wartburg, one of East Germany's better cars, but definitely NOT a BMW), warnings to order coal in the spring if you want it in the Autumn etc. They also have it right about who you could trust or not - after my F-i-L left Hungary in 1956, he found out that a 'friend' had been spying on him), and the ever-presence of the 'security' services. My problem with the film is the laziness of the script. Nina Hoss is pitch perfect in her role, and her character doesn't really do anything wrong: it is the others which are at fault. To a certain extent the film is about her choosing between 2 men, but one (the one she hopes to join in the West) is shown to be a callous jerk, who seems to want her purely for sex, indeed almost to be paying her for it: the other is a) very good looking and b) drawn in ludicrously sympathetic light, almost as some kind of communist Dr Kildare. I also don't like films where the outcome is decided by an enormous coincidence: as someone has pointed out above, how does Stella know where Barbara lives, and secondly how very convenient that she turns up on the night that Barbara's escape to the West is supposed to take place. I am not the smartest cookie in the jar, but I had spotted that coming from halfway through the film. An opportunity missed, I am afraid.
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Quiet... too quiet
SnoopyStyle25 May 2014
It's 1980 East Germany. Dr Barbara Wolff (Nina Hoss) is new in the backwaters hospital. She has isolated herself from all her colleagues. The secret police Stasi is keeping track of her for applying for an exit visa and she lost her job at a prestigious hospital in East Berlin. She can trust nobody even the chief doctor Reiser. There is a patient named Stella that has developed an attachment to Barbara. She is pregnant and is desperate to flee to the West.

I love the idea of this story. This should be a tense thriller of paranoia and fear. Instead this is slow moving, reserved emotionally and quiet. The long takes, medium shots, and the stoic performances strip the movie of its tension. The fact that she is holding her feelings so tightly may be fitting for the story. It doesn't always allow people to feel her fears. It's a specific way to do this story and it works on that level.
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Suspenseful German Drama
Larry Silverstein29 December 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Set in 1980, in East Germany, some 9 years before the crumbling of the Berlin Wall and 10 years before German reunification, I found this movie, written and directed by Christian Petzold to be quite suspenseful and engrossing.

Nina Hoss, the very talented German actress, leads the way here in a very mesmerizing screen performance, as Dr. Barbara Wolff. After an incarceration in East Berlin, for unspecified reasons, she is sent to work in a hospital in the provinces that specializes in treating children and young adults.

She is under constant suspicion and surveillance by the oppressive East German totalitarian state, with her apartment being searched frequently and she's even subjected to humiliating strip searches. Thus, she is extremely guarded towards her co-workers at the hospital as well as any townspeople she encounters.

We quickly learn Barbara is surreptitiously leaving and receiving packages at various locations in the town and in the wooded areas surrounding the town. Her motives to escape the oppressive regime in her country are slowly revealed, as she begins to secretly meet her lover who has managed to enter East Germany.

In the meantime, the chief physician at the hospital Dr. Andre Reiser, very ably portrayed by Ronald Zehrfeld, is attracted to Barbara and tries to break through her steely persona. She also, in time, begins to like and trust him to a point.

When Barbara's final plans to escape are finalized, the tension and suspense really builds, as devotion to her work and some people around her complicates her plans.

It all ends in a surprising and heart-rending finale, I thought. As mentioned, this film kept my interest throughout and would recommend it to those who like well made foreign dramas.
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Are The Stasi Out Tonight
writers_reign28 September 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Christian Petzold was born in 1960 so it's not a given that he is familiar with Jacques Prevert's poem 'Barbara' (which was subsequently set to music and recorded by Yves Montand amongst others) despite the esteem in which it is held - for many years (and possibly even today for all I know- every school child in France was required to learn it by heart. I bring it up because Prevert's poem was anti-war, specifically the second World War and by extension Germany and Petzold's Barbara is anti-East Germany for roughly the forty years when it was under Communist rule. The film is held together by Nina Hoss who is more than up to the task of carrying a film single-handed. She plays a doctor exiled from Berlin to a one-stethoscope town in North Germany where she is harassed and humiliated by the Stasi because she has a lover in Western Germany and clearly has eyes to follow him. If that were all it would be a case of so what but she is also a dedicated and humane doctor and more than half of her wants to stay where she is and do something worthwhile. About two thirds of the way through it occurred to me I was unaware of any background music - I checked the credits on IMDb and there is a 'music' credit so either I was so engrossed in the film - and it's deliberately 'measured' pace tends to draw you in - that I didn't hear such music as was there or else it was edited out. Only once was I a tad disappointed by sloppy writing - one of Barbara's patients, who has grown attached to Barbara, has been brutally removed from hospital as soon as she is well enough, presumably never to be heard of again. Towards the end of the film this patient appears at Barbara's door yet clearly she could have had no idea where the doctor's private flat was. Though I registered this immediately (I see a lot of films, sue me) it failed to mar my enjoyment of an excellent effort.
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Barbara was slow and uninteresting to me.
dalydj-918-25517528 September 2012
Warning: Spoilers
"German actress Nina Hoss cannot save my boredom when watching this film" Germany's foreign language film submitted film this year is this film and I think they might have made a mistake even though some people would strongly disagree with me. The film is about a woman called Barbara who has been transferred from West Germany to the east because she had filed an "Ausreiseantrag". Then when she gets more comfortable in her new life she gets involved with her patients especially Stella one who seems to be a trouble for everyone else. Then much more stuff happen around the characters I just felt that it had to much events occurring.

Barbara is a quiet woman who seems cut off from her co workers even though she still can talk to them. Also she is very secretive even when she is stripped searched which seems to be every week when he home is also searched for some documents that she is very good at hiding. Barbara does do something nice for underdeveloped Stella allowing her to get away with the money she raised for herself to get away, this causes her to return to the young boy who tried to commit suicide and came to the hospital.

The main performance by Nina Hoss is OK because most of her performance is in her eyes and that's why I think she is best in the film making this complicated character more likable to everyone. Other actors Ronald Zehrfeld, Mark Waschke and Jasna Fritzi Bauer are OK but to me the film all belongs to Hoss and she carries the film on her shoulders making it better then in could have been.

Nice film but I found it very boring even nodding off sometimes but Hoss was very good and that's why I stayed to watch the film.

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Doctor Gloomy
Mike B27 February 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Our Doctor Gloomy is so depressed and devoid of any happiness that this just wears you down after the first hour. I saw it at the cinema and was subconsciously pressing fast-forward. Even her encounters with her purported lover left me feeling empty.

We never know why she has been ostracized by her East German government. She meets a new cohort at her new rural hospital and they have vague probing conversations together. The hospital is remarkable in that there are so few patients, possibly because people in East Germany are reluctant to get sick? We see our doctors eating in a rather large dining hall – and then they go off to work in the empty hospital corridors. Our Doctor Gloomy even has the time to read a book to one of her few patients. It was a translation of a Mark Twain book which got me thinking about how little I have read of this author. It's an indication of how unappealing a film is when your mind starts to wander off from the movie in front of you.
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Good for a wet afternoon
cblittle13 June 2012
The premise for this movie had me very excited when I saw it was part of my Sydney Film Festival subscriber pack. And indeed, it is nicely made, has good atmosphere and is well acted with everyone looking their part. Despite this it falls short of its promise and potential.

Fundamentally, this is a story with too many clichés and an obvious ending that can be picked too early. This diminishes the excellent opening and early scenes. Some of the characters are too exaggerated; especially one overly humble and humanitarian. For me, the medical information, including a particularly speedy diagnosis and some treatments weren't quite on the mark either, but that's more easily forgiven.

If it's a wet cold Sunday and you're looking for something easy to watch, then this will do well enough; but it won't change your life or reveal anything new about life behind the iron curtain.
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Not my kind of movie
Carlos Solis Vega5 February 2015
A little bit slow and plain. I prefer movies with contrasting scenes, a love scene followed by a worrying scenario or something like that, in this movie you won't find those contrasts, everything is kind of "emotionless", maybe because the main character Bárbara is making efforts to not get involved. Few emotions are displayed by the characters.

The whole story develops in 2 or 3 locations, of course it is a small village but a better usage of the landscapes was possible. In defense of the movie I would say the end is good.

Not a bad movie, but not what I expected.
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Contemplating escape from East Germany
Tweekums5 March 2014
Warning: Spoilers
This film is centred on East German doctor; the eponymous Barbara. She used to work at the prestigious Berlin hospital but has been transferred to a small rural hospital for reasons that aren't immediately obvious but it is clear that she has done something that the regime didn't approve of. While working at the hospital it becomes clear that the Stasi are keeping close tabs on her; her boss clearly knows more about her than one would expect and when she disappears from their surveillance she gets a less than subtle visit from the Stasi. We later learn that she was punished for applying for permission to leave the country and she hasn't given up her plans to leave.

We see that she is a caring and competent doctor; just the sort the hospital needs… she diagnoses a case of meningitis that others have missed and later realises another patient needs an urgent operation. During this time she grows professionally closer to her superior Dr André Reiser despite suspecting that he is informing for the dreaded Stasi. As time passes and the day of her escape to the west approaches she must decide between freedom in the West and staying at the hospital where her skills are needed.

Having seen 'The Lives of Others' I was expecting another grim urban setting but this was set in beautiful countryside; something that contrasts with Barbara's basic apartment and the under-equipped hospital where she works. The story is told with a surprisingly light touch given the subject matter; the scenes of Barbara cycling through the countryside are positively bucolic. Nina Hoss carries the story as Barbara but is ably supported by Ronald Zehrfeld who played Dr Reiser and Rainer Bock who plays the sinister Stasi Officer Klaus Schütz. While there is little actual violence there is the feeling that there is a real danger for Barbara… especially when the Stasi search her flat and more disturbingly her body. The dilemma of whether she will try to escape or not is nicely depicted and her final decision is depicted in a believable way. Overall I think this German drama is well worth watching; it may not be fast paced but it is still fairly gripping.
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More Starsi intimidation.
Mozjoukine24 August 2012
It looks like THE LIVES OF OTHERS is going to spearhead a cycle of films about victims of the East German secret police and that sounds like a good subject along the lines of the US conspiracy thrillers. This one has an interesting enough premise. Out of favor doctor Hoss (THE WHITE MASSAI) is sent to a provincial hospital, where the friendly fellow medico may be keeping a report on her. The official who keeps on calling in the lady with the rubber glove to do cavity searches certainly is.

The sub-plot of the teenage girl from the socialist work camp is strong enough but the way things are wound up is not all that convincing and tension has slacked by then.

Production values are good enough but the film lacks the feeling of time and place that would make it register.
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Subtle thriller
barrynormanactivity15 November 2012
Warning: Spoilers
A little understanding of the political background to this very good film would be helpful as the audience is dropped into the story with the impression that significant things have happened in the characters recent past and yet these events are not made overly explicit, we are left seeing only the shattered remnants of lives.The title character doesn't articulate her frustration and bitterness through expositional dialogue,rather it is etched on her unsmiling face as she chain smokes her way through the days. An atmosphere of paranoia pervades the film but cleverly the film chooses not to force this across ,rather a subtle air of distrust hangs over the film.Subtle also describes the look of the film which is sensitively photographed making good use of natural light sources,the film does look quietly beautiful.

However as the film progresses events begin to become more dramatically focused and although in some ways satisfying it's a little disappointing that a film that has carefully avoided the usual trappings of similar films resolves itself in a slightly pedestrian manner.That said an optimistic conclusion does make the film a more palatable experience given the sombre nature of the situation and the title characters growing self realisation provides a welcome positive climax.

The film abounds with excellent performances that brilliantly convey both the banality of evil and the pressures of living under such a regime.
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