BARBARA

★★★

SUBTLE INTENSITY

THEATRICAL REVIEW
By Jess Fenton
4th March 2013

Germany’s official Oscar submission for Best Foreign Film was the captivating ‘Barbara’. It unfortunately didn’t make the cut, but arguably for the reason that there are only five nominee spots and not six.

‘Barbara’ is set in the 80s during the time of a still-divided Germany. As punishment for applying for an exit visa Barbara (Nina Hoss), an accomplish Berlin doctor, is banished to work in a hospital in the provinces, where she rejects friendship and acquaintances while her West German lover plots and prepares for her escape. Biding her time and subjected to surprise inspections and invasive physical examination by the authorities, Barbara develops a relationship with a fellow doctor Andre (Ronald Zehrfeld), who glows with the warmth of compassion, empathy and dedication to his work. When a young woman in need of treatment after escaping a work house comes to the hospital, Barbara develops a particular bond with her, causing a conflict with her need for survival, her commitment as a doctor and love both new and old.

BARBARA - TRAILER

‘Barbara’ is a slow burn that is, in fact, part thriller, with tension so subtle and meticulously crafted, it happens all around you; before you know it, you’re on the edge of your seat, not realising how are why you got there. Deeply evocative, it’s the realisation (much like when you watch a film such as ‘The Help’) of just how disturbingly set in all-too-recent and real history these events are.

Remarkably, Hoss manages to make Barbara a sympathetic character despite her initial coldness, the mark of a true talent, and Zehrfeld is gorgeously charming and effortlessly easy to watch. Director Christian Petzold has produced a superb study of character, time and the power and consequence of sacrifice.

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