First off, Nina Hoss is one of the best actors working today and certainly does not disappoint with her latest performance in "Barbara," succeeding in playing a difficult character. And I also liked how the movie gradually reveals Barbara's backstory while featuring perhaps my favorite scene of the year where Dr. Reiser dissects the Rembrandt painting in his office. That's not to mention all of the random details of life in East Germany that help to complete the picture. Sadly, the story is pure cliche, filled with contrivances, and filed under the city doctor going to the country and being surprised by what she finds.(I've never seen "Doc Hollywood," so I'll go with "Northern Exposure" instead. And I guess this is proof that "House" was shown in Germany.) And with any old plot, it also makes the movie that much more predictable. Of perhaps greater concern is the fact that it muddles the movie's politics, not so much as to which side are you on, but adding a definite grey area that also extends to Barbara's motives in her struggle against being violated.
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A bonus for me as a automobile enthusiast, the cars seemed to really put the film in the period.
The movie is set in Eastern Germany during the Cold War period in 1980. Barbara, a medical doctor has been downgraded from her prestigious position at the Charite in Berlin to a provincial hospital.
What I liked in the movie was the cinematography which captured the subtle beauty of the German countryside in the north east. The oppressive atmosphere due to the constant surveillance was depicted perfectly. Although the German artsy scene might not mind the slow moving, minimalistic character of the movie, the audience in North America might be less forgiving. It is quite a stretch to sell this movie as a thriller.
Barbara is played as standoffish and quiet. It is hard to judge if Nina Hoss did a good job, because of the limited range of the character. Unfortunately, in Germany, all that seems required to be perceived as a strong female character is to smoke heavily, say little, be skinny, against authority and drawn to American culture. It still does not hurt to be blond by the way.
The movie leaves too much to the viewer to figure out, especially for an international audience that might not have experienced the cold war and has little knowledge about the history of post war Germany. A lot of the message is lost.
Superficially one might think that Barbara gave up her freedom by staying in Eastern Germany, because of her altruism. Barbara changed her mind at the last meeting with her boyfriend, when she had to choose between the life of a housewife in the West with unlimited shopping opportunities (as symbolized by the mail order catalogue shown to her) and her status as an educated, independent woman working as a physician in an oppressed state. In fact, women in the West in the 1980s were ?encouraged? to go back to their traditional roles as housewives especially after the election of the conservative government under Helmut Kohl. Maybe Barbara chose freedom after all.
Her West German lover manages to secretly visit her in East Germany. Plans are made for Barbara to escape.
Barbara's life is complicated by a male doctor, co-worker, Reiser (Ronald Zehrfeld). He has apparently come to work in a provincial hospital for similar negative reasons. He comes to admire and be attracted to Barbara.
The story held my interest. There were involving twists and turns. This is a good little movie; good, not great.
This movie is worth a look.