Barbara (2012) Mubi

June 15th, 2021
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dirr/Wri: Christian Petzold | Cast: Nina Hoss, Ronald Zehrfeld, Rainer Block | Germany, Drama

In an East Germany of 1980, Nina Hoss gives a stunning performance as Barbara, a cool teutonic blond doctor exiled to a remote Soviet-style cottage hospital by the Stasi, leaving her lover in the West. With a fine line in sexy underwear and a reserved bedside manner that masks her exquisite vulnerability, Barbara is initially immune to her colleague Andre’s cosy but magnetic sexuality and growing interest in her that goes beyond her talents as a pediatrician.

Sumptuously shot in a palate of muted colours with fine attention to period detail by cinematographer Hans Fromm, this is an accomplished piece of cinema. It works on two levels: as a well-detailed social study of the East/West conflict, and a subtle, slow-burning love story that’s desperate to burst out of its clinical strictures but never quite does due to Barbara’s, and our own, uncertainty of Andre’s motives.  Hemmed in by the tense paranoia at being monitored by a Stasi officer (Rainer Block) rifling through her drawers, Barbara escapes for clandestine meetings with her lover in West Berlin until the past and present start to close in around her.  Christian Petzold won best director at Berlin with this Cold War psychodrama of a woman caught between desire and subterfuge.MT

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