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Barbara 2012

4.2 out of 5 stars (86) IMDb 7.2/10

It is the summer of 1980 in the German Democratic Republic and, alone, Barbara is confined to living and working as a doctor in a small provincial town - her punishment for attempting to emigrate to the West.

Starring:
Nina Hoss, Ronald Zehrfeld
Runtime:
1 hour, 45 minutes

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4.2 out of 5 stars
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Format: DVD Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
It was inevitable that this compelling film of rural life under the watchful eye of the Stasi would be compared to The Lives of Others, another German movie which explores similar themes. Yet they are in essence very different - Barbara is much less dramatic, yet the moral choices the titular character is presented with are far less clear cut. A doctor stationed to the East German countryside in 1980, Barbara keeps her colleagues at a distance. This is because she is unsure if any of them are keeping an eye on her for the secret police, which would ruin her plans to escape the country with her West German boyfriend. But how long can anyone maintain their distance from other people? Meanwhile, she has patients to care for at the hospital, which presents her with another dilemma - how can she balance her duties against her own desires to escape?

Barbara is a charming & atmospheric film, which will no doubt have viewers who are used to more fast-paced Hollywood movies reaching for the fast-forward button. Personally, I enjoyed every minute although once the scene had been set & I could see which direction it was taking, there were few surprises. Nevertheless, it addressed some interesting questions, as well as being beautifully crafted by the creators behind the lens & the actors in front of it. Recommended for anyone who prefers the more leisurely pace of European cinema to the usual Hollywood cliches.
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Christian Peltzoid's Barbara is a film stripped of the old post-Wall clichés about DDR,(think Downfall,Lives of Others,Baader-Meinhoff) a world of Nazis,terrorists and Stasi,no high drama,more long contemplative shots,precise framing and deliberate pace,a kind of neo-realist reconstruction.We are in a state of being off balance, unexpected camera angles,languid long shots and sudden close-ups.Nina Hoss is his regular lead actress(cf.Yella,a woman in Germany's depressed East who seeks Western success but maybe only dreaming her escape from the lake into which her stalker ex-husband has plunged her).In Barbara she's a doctor seeking to flee provincial East Germany where she's been sent for wanting to be posted to the West in 1980.She will be working in a hospital where mistrust of her colleagues and what she says is uppermost.We have to read in between the lines and guess what is buried in the looks and gazes.Peltzoid fleshes out the idea of DDR with colour,the wind, green woodland,cawing gulls,the sea, the night lights.Having Barbara making trips on her cycle opens this up,with over-the-shoulder-glances.We are in a world of mood-music,despite the fact Barbara is called on by the Stasi a couple of times,her pokey rooms searched and her body(by a female),for incriminating evidence about her desire to escape.Cold and aloof from her colleagues, a caring co-worker Andre(Zehrfeld) who maybe monitoring her,attempts to make her feel wellcome.A codedcommunication develops,beneath what is being said another language is evolving,duty to her patients versus desire for freedom and escape with her lover from the West Jorg,who brings her black market supplies of stockings and cigarettes.Thefilm's direction is one-way,when will the moment of escape come and do we want her to?Read more ›
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By Sentinel TOP 500 REVIEWER on 21 Jan. 2013
Format: DVD Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
As the majority of reviewers, and the Amazon site have already summarised the plot, I'd like to concentrate on the direction, script, acting, and camerawork of this haunting portrayal of surveillance. Although the initial tone is chilly, reflected by Barbara's apparently cold & remote character, sparse dialogue, and the restricted action of the plot, this is a successful portrayal of a small-town society in the grip of a life of shortage and surveillance.

The colour tones of the film have the same washed-out tones of yellow, ochre and brown (even the grass seems bleached), and this seems to leach into the limited and resigned hopes of the limited group of central characters. In 1980's East Germany, hospital facilities as well as cigarettes are in limited supply, and Barbara's boss's 'laboratory' is a very modest home-made facility indeed.

In a society where even an innocent conversation might be used to convict you, characters are sparing with what they have to say, and this adds a greater emotional intensity, and air of mystery to the drama, most chillingly where Barbara has to endure regular intimate body searches, as part of the local police systematic searching of her very basic flat.

Increasingly, this nerve-wracking and repetitive endurance, reduces characters to an almost sleep-drunk robotic state, which is very well captured in the film's superbly understated acting. The theme of having to endure through personal sacrifice becomes explicit in the film's powerfully moving finale.

Though 'Barbara' is harder to warm to than the superb
...Read more ›
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Format: DVD
"Barbara" (2012 release from Germany; 105 min.) brings the story of a female doctor, Barbara (played by Nina Hoss), in a provincial town in East Germany in 1980. It appears Barbara had applied for an exit visa so as to leave the country, and as a result was demoted from a prestigious hospital in Berlin to now work in the country side. Barbara has a lover, some well to-do guy in West Germany who sends her money so as to prepare things for her to escape East Germany illegally. All the while, Barbara gets to know Andre (played by Ronald Zehrfeld), a colleague doctor who also has been sidetracked (but for different reasons we later learn) in the country side. Right away from the very start Andre has a crush on Barbara, and is trying to charm her non-stop. As all of this is happening, Barbara takes a special interest in Stella, a teenage girl who has escaped from a nearby youth labor camp and suffers from various ailments. To tell you more about the plot would ruin your viewing experience. You'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out. I will say that I did not see the end coming at all, so you are in for a surprise!

Several comments: the movie does a great job depicting life in East Germany in the early 80s. Pay close attention to the scenery in the small town where Barbara is working, and notice how stark everything is. Cars are far and few between, and the living conditions are pretty dull, if not grim. In between we also notice the never-ending political pressure that existed in East Germany, where everyone and anyone could be spying on you on behalf of the Stazi (the East German state security agency).
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