Christian Petzold / Germany / 2012 / 105 min
Selected as the German candidate for next year’s foreign-language Oscar and already winning director Christian Petzold the Silver Bear at Venice, Barbara is proving itself to be a slighter but equally as powerful rival to von Donnersmarck’s The Life of Others. Exploring the paranoia of 1980 East Germany, Barbara tells the stifling story of the day-to-day monotony of a country doctor (Nina Hoss), torn between her desire to flee the West and her sentiment for the people who live there.
Petzold’s film is certainly a slow burner, but for those patient viewers he rewards them with an emotional payoff. With stolid and suffocating cinematography, Petzold is able to capture the bleakness of Barbara’s world, drowning in the boredom of rural life and constantly looking over her shoulder as she plans her escape. In her fifth collaboration with Petzold, Hoss tenders a muted performance that subdues viewers until the final stages of the film. Her delicate features and frame fit perfectly against the harshness of the East German divide, exploring the idea of the individual fighting against the tyranny of government and what effect this has (both physically and mentally). This may not be the film for those seeking a lively thriller but Petzold’s genius lies in his ability to create boiling tension with very little effort.