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Germany, 2012, 105 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Drama, Medical/Health, Social Issues
Program: Contemporary World CinemaLanguage: German English Subtitles
DIRECTOR: Christian Petzold
Producer: Florian Koerner von Gustorf, Michael WeberEditor: Bettina BöhlerScreenwriter: Christian PetzoldCinematographer: Hans FrommPrincipal Cast: Nina Hoss, Ronald Zehrfeld, Jasna Fritzi Bauer, Mark Waschke, Rainer Bock
Barbara (Nina Hoss), a doctor who’s done prison time for an unspecified crime, has been banished to a rural pediatric hospital in 1980s East Germany. It’s a quiet existence—the kind that comes from trying to avoid attention from the secret police, who regularly stake out Barbara’s apartment and conduct impromptu strip searches. She lives it with a bitter stoicism, unveiling her humanity only when she becomes involved in helping to heal her patients.
She must endure the humiliation of being presumed an enemy of the state, which at first seems not to take so great a toll. But as time goes on, Barbara’s vulnerability grows to the point of breaking her spirit. Her boss, lead physician André (Ronald Zehrfeld), is sympathetic, but for her, even his tentative overtures of friendship—and perhaps more—are suspect. She’s able to arrange rare trysts with her West German lover, who’s trying to smuggle her out. But her compassion gets in the way, trapping her in a conflict between helping her patients and relieving her own suffering. She sees that escape may set her free but may not make her happy.
Barbara’s own dilemma was echoed during filming by an actress who says she is still haunted by the decision to engineer her own escape to the West in the 1970s. As she told director Christian Petzold and the cast, she knew she would never return and that her former life had disappeared—she left behind not only a totalitarian regime, but also her past and future.
- VAL MOSES
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