Barbara

dir. Christian Petzold

Barbara

dir. Christian Petzold

Barbara

dir. Christian Petzold

Barbara

dir. Christian Petzold

Barbara

dir. Christian Petzold

Skip to schedule and film credits
Set in East Germany in the early 1980s, the new film from renowned director Christian Petzold (Jerichow) is a suspenseful chamber piece about an accomplished Berlin physician, banished to a rural hospital as punishment, who is torn between the promise of escape across the border and her growing love for a fellow colleague — who may be planning to betray her to the secret police.

With Yella, Jerichow and Beats Being Dead (his contribution to the tripartite collaboration Dreileben, which played at last year's Festival), Christian Petzold has established himself as the most internationally recognized representative of the so-called "Berlin School," the unofficial new wave of filmmakers who have reinvigorated German cinema with films marked by a precise, observational style that manages to be simultaneously enigmatic and radically lucid. Like many of his colleagues, Petzold is adept at infusing his attentive psychological and sociological portraits with genre elements, and his new film — a suspenseful chamber piece set in 1980s East Germany, which he co-wrote with the great German avant-garde filmmaker Harun Farocki — is no exception.

Removed from a prestigious medical post in East Berlin and reassigned to an underfunded rural hospital — her tacit punishment for requesting an exit visa from the GDR — Barbara (Nina Hoss) resentfully isolates herself from her new colleague, chief physician Andre (Ronald Zehrfeld), whom she suspects is keeping tabs on her at the behest of the local Stasi officer Schütz (Rainer Bock). Seeking solace in clandestine trysts with her West German lover Jörg (Mark Waschke), who is working to effect Barbara's escape across the border, Barbara allows her icy mask to slip when she meets a young pregnant woman, Stella (Jasna Fritzi Bauer), who has contracted meningitis after escaping from a detention centre for wayward youth. As Barbara and Andre nurse Stella back to health, they begin to bond over their shared passion for medicine. But even as she finds herself falling in love with him, Barbara still cannot be sure that Andre is not a spy. When Jörg returns to offer her a sure-fire escape from the country, Barbara must make a difficult decision between her desire for freedom and her growing attraction to a man who may be waiting to betray her.

As always, Petzold uses his meticulously calibrated pacing and almost unnervingly crisp visual style to create a foreboding atmosphere of ever growing paranoia and claustrophobia. Working for the fifth time with his Yella and Jerichow star Hoss — whose measured, icy restraint is the perfect actorly analogue for Petzold's expertly muted style — he creates a brilliantly incisive study of what becomes of human nature when totalitarian states weave suspicion into the fabric of everyday life.

Dimitri Eipides