Friday, 22 March 2013
Christian Petzold GERMANY, 2012 German with English subtitles 105 minutes
Principal Cast: Nina Hoss, Ronald Zehrfeld, Jasna Fritzi Bauer, Mark Waschke, Rainer Boc
Set in East Germany in the early 1980s, Barbara (an Official Selection of the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival®) is a suspenseful chamber piece about an accomplished Berlin physician who is banished to a rural hospital as punishment, where she finds herself torn between the promise of escape to the West and her growing love for a fellow colleague — who may be planning to betray her to the secret police.
Removed from a prestigious medical post in East Berlin and reassigned to an under-funded rural hospital — her tacit punishment for requesting an exit visa from the GDR — Barbara (Nina Hoss, Jerichow, The White Masai) resentfully isolates herself from her new colleague, chief physician Andre (Ronald Zehrfeld), whom she suspects is keeping tabs on her at the behest of the local Stasi officer Schütz (Rainer Bock, War Horse). Seeking solace in clandestine trysts with her West German lover Jörg (Mark Waschke), who is working to effect her escape across the border, Barbara allows her icy mask to slip when she meets a young pregnant woman, Stella (Jasna Fritzi Bauer), who has contracted meningitis after escaping from a detention centre for wayward youth. As Barbara and Andre nurse Stella back to health, they begin to bond over their shared passion for medicine. But even as she finds herself falling in love with Andre, Barbara still cannot be sure that he is not a spy. When Jörg returns to offer her a sure-fire escape from the country, Barbara must make a difficult decision between her desire for freedom and her growing attraction to a man who may be waiting to betray her.
Director Christian Petzold (Yella, Jerichow) uses his meticulously calibrated pacing and almost unnervingly crisp visual style to create a foreboding atmosphere of ever growing paranoia and claustrophobia. Working for the fifth time with Hoss — whose measured, icy restraint is the perfect actorly analogue for Petzold’s expertly muted style — he creates a brilliantly incisive study of what becomes of human nature when totalitarian states weave suspicion into the fabric of everyday life.
An extremely nuanced and subtle examination of love, charity and political struggle during the paranoid years of the GDR. —GLENN HEATH JR., LITTLE WHITE LIES