Barbara is a doctor in East Germany in 1980—which let me tell you, is as much fun as it sounds—in the eponymous movie from Germany’s Christian Petzold. She’s crossed the Stasi and as a result has been assigned to a backwater province where she must work to repay her debt to the “farmers and workers” who paid for her medical education.
Or, as we say in this country: You didn’t build that.
This is a movie in the mold of Das leben der anderen (The Lives of Others) and 4 months, 3 weeks, 2 days, which show us where socialism inevitably goes. It’s an atmosphere of paranoia, where the local secret police head (Rainer Bock of Inglorious Basterds, War Horse, White Ribbon) visits Barbara every time she’s not accounted for for any length of time, tosses her house and does a cavity search. (Well, has it done. Has to be proper, after all.)
The local doctor, André (Ronald Zehrfield) is immediately taken by the blonde beauty (Nina Hoss, looking haggard), but she’s naturally stand-offish, given that he’s filling out regular reports on her activity to the Stasi.
She also has a West German boyfriend (Mark Waschke) whom she sneaks off to canoodle with and perhaps plot her escape from that communist hellhole.
Rounding out the story is the up-and-coming Jasna Fritzi Bauer, who plays Stella, a girl who has escaped from a local work camp, and is brought to the hospital when caught because she’s got some kind of weird disease.
It’s actually a pretty tight little movie, with the tension coming largely from those four character, and even more centrally Barbara and André as two people in the worst of situations, trying to figure out the right thing to do and not really having any good options—and damn few bad ones, really.
I liked it greatly. The Boy and the Flower liked it okay but not as much. The whole Communist experience is a bit out of their awareness (so far), so the paranoid tension probably resolved to boredom after a while.
This is the German entry for the Oscars for 2013.