Barbara

2012 | Drama | 105 minutes | In German with English subtitles

Info

Dr. Barbara Wolff is a physician in East Germany in 1980. Because she filed a request for a visa to leave East Germany, the government forcefully moves her from her prestigious hospital in Berlin to a pediatric clinic in a remote province of the country. That isn’t enough. The Stasi Secret Police continue to watch her, to ransack her apartment, and even strip-search her. Her supervisor is Dr. André Reiser. For bungling a treatment in Berlin, he too was dismissed from his position in a prominent Berlin hospital. He seems affable and kind but he has been told by Stasi that he must now be their spy. Shortly thereafter, the police bring a distraught young girl, Stella, to the clinic. She is being restrained with a straightjacket. After examining Stella, Barbara is certain she’s suffering from meningitis. She proceeds to treat Stella and they form a strong bond. Barbara’s boyfriend, Jörg, who lives in West Germany, is arranging her escape. A small boat will pick up Barbara up in a Baltic Sea port and take her to Denmark. Meanwhile, at the clinic, Barbara’s patient Mario is not responding to treatment and requires surgery. Barbara tracks down Reiser and informs him. Reiser asks Barbara to meet him at the clinic and assist him. It’s the day she was planning her escape. Barbara runs into Stella who just ran away from her horrible detention home. Stella pleads with Barbara to help her escape. The boat to Denmark will only take one of them. Should Barbara relinquish her opportunity and give Stella a shot at freedom What an agonizing decision Barbara must make.

Cast
Nina Hoss ( Dr. Barbara Wolff) / Ronald Zehrfeld ( Dr. André Reiser)  / Rainer Bock ( Stasi Officer Klaus Schutz) / Jasna Fritzi Bauer (Stella) / Mark Waschke (Jorg)
Why Stream This Film?
What was it like in Communist East Germany before the Wall came down? Because Dr. Barbara Wolff dared apply for a visa to leave East Germany, she was transferred from a major hospital in Berlin to a pediatric clinic in the hinterland. Not only that, she was watched and her apartment searched by the dreaded Stasi Secret Police. The film is noteworthy in its harrowing depiction of Barbara’s agony and her desperate attempts to find a way out. 
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus): 94%
  • Metacritic Score: 86
Accolades
  • Berlin International Film Festival: Silver Bear for Best Director (Christian Petzold)

Now streaming on:

Petzold is a master at creating the kind of tension that can be felt on a subterranean level, a sort of acute uneasiness that can’t be easily diagnosed, fixed, or even acknowledged by the characters. This is well-trod ground for Petzold, but never has it been so fully realized, so palpable, as in BARBARA.
Sheila O'Malley

Chicago Sun-Times

BARBARA is a film about old Germany from one of the best directors working in the new: Christian Petzold. For more than a decade Mr. Petzold has been making his mark on the international scene with smart, tense films that resemble psychological thrillers, but are distinguished by their strange story turns, moral thorns, visual beauty and filmmaking intelligence. His latest to open in the United States is BARBARA.
Manhola Dargis

The New York Times

Both strands of Barbara’s life are so fully created that they are individually true and affect each other. Petzold treats the whole as if he recognized that two cinematic forms—Hitchcock and Cukor—are by now so well-established in our consciousness that their juncture is not only possible but somehow fit.
Stanley Kauffmann

The New Republic

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