Christopher256G's Profile - Rotten Tomatoes

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Rating History

Barbara
Barbara (2012)
14 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

"Barbara" is a German film by director Christian Petzold about a woman doctor living in East Berlin, under control of the Soviet allied government before the fall of the Berlin Wall. In a terrific performance by actress Nina Hoss, Barbara is very talented doctor, but is being punished for trying to go to the west. The job she's placed in is quite undesirable, and she live under continual harassment from the Stasi secret police, one officer of which is particularly harsh on her, so it's understandable quite mistrustful of strangers. But even so she dedicates herself to her patients, as much as she can within the societies confines. She wants very much to keep trying to go a freer Europe.

The relationships Barbara has with her new supervisor Andre, who might have more than one motive to be near to her, is truly fascinating and complex, and I would say the best part of film. She wants to distance herself from him and her other colleagues at first, for reasons which are later justified, but also finds she cannot isolate herself either. She has emotional connections with a few patients, she treats, one of which is a particularly disturbing case of a girl who ran away from a work camp who's initially difficult to the other doctors but Barbara finds a way to connect. At home she's usually alone, unless there's a terrifying surprise visit from the Stasi. But she has engagements elsewhere other than home or hospital that show the full range of a woman she is.

If this isn't on the level of the a few other modern masterpieces about east European life behind the Iron Curtain in the last decade of the Soviet Union-I'm thinking of "The Lives of Others", and "4 Month 3 Week & 2 Days"-it's a extremely admirable and smart one that comes close, which shows human desires in the face of repression and the fear one lives under in such society. It's part thriller with romantic elements, but more so it's a human look the interaction between several different individuals in this society where ones fated role dictated by the society can be very hard to escape.

The Act Of Killing
18 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

"The Act of Killing" is one of those few documentaries that you can watch once (and most who see it will prefer to watch only once) and never, ever forget. It is the best, most powerful, and one of the most unique documentaries I've seen this decade, and maybe in the 21st century.

In Indonesia in 1964 & 65 occurred what can only be called a genocide of presumed communist communities, caused by death squads which were at least tacitly backed by the West. Nearly fifty years later a number of those who participated in massacres of unthinkable horror talk about what they did. It's truly unsettling what they describe, in the form of beatings, strangulations, be-headings, rape and other forms of sick barbarities. But what's arguably more disturbing is the casual way these abhorrent crimes are talked about, and the lack of repulsion or remorse by many about what occurred, partially due to the fact there's little risk anyone will be punished for it, ever. Millions in the country still celebrate the military style rule of the time, they serve in elected office, and have propaganda talk shows to congratulate themselves (though many I'm sure also have little idea about this dark chapter in their country's history).

The filmmakers here did something pretty brilliant, which probably produced more insight and history than any number of hours of interviews would have: they ask those who participated to reenact violent scenes of what happened during those purges. And these former thugs (they often proudly refer to themselves as "gangsters") are only too happy to oblige, putting in surprising effort to accomplish the cinematics. The scenes they act out, with some "Hollywood" stylization, range from darkly comical in a few instances, to absolutely grotesque and very hard to watch. Seeing them act out scenes they presumably partook in is chilling, but it's also where we see some humanity come out: in a few scenes the emotion of certain "actors" is overwhelming. As cold as these people might seem to the pain they've caused, no one deals with the situation in exactly the same way. And it all comes to an ending scene which will be etched in my mind probably as long as I'm alive. "The Act of Killing," tough watch as it is, needs to be seen, both for its important history on an under-reported atrocity of the 20th century, and for what it says about us as a people when we lose our soul and convince ourselves the worst acts are justified.

I find it both interesting and a little pointless that they've now released a director's cut version that's a half hour longer. I have to think that version must be either for film students, historians, or for masochists. I won't sugarcoat it, this is one of the most grueling, uncomfortable movie experiences I've ever had in a long time. I'm glad I've had it, and I'm of no two minds in calling this film a masterpiece, but enduring an extended version is not something I plan on partaking anytime soon.