DVD Review: Barbara (2012)

STUDIO: Kino Lorber | DIRECTOR: Christian Petzold | CAST: Nina Hoss, Rainer Bock, Ronald Zehrfeld, Christina Hecke, Jasna Fritzi Bauer
BLU-RAY & DVD RELEASE DATE: 11/12/2013 | PRICE: DVD $29.95, Blu-ray $34.95
SPECS: PG-13 | 105 min. | Foreign language drama | 1.85:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital stereo | German with English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall


Like the 2006 Oscar-winner The Lives of Others, Christian Petzold’s 2012 drama Barbara is a taut, harrowing account of East German life under the repressive eye of the most feared secret police in Communist-era Europe:  the Stasi.

Barbara movie scene

Nina Hoss is Barbara.

Barbara (Nina Hoss), a young doctor, lost her prestigious post at a Berlin hospital when she applied for an exit visa to be with her West German lover. She was then incarcerated and reassigned to a provincial clinic. She plots her escape and steals furtive encounters with that lover, all the while enduring searches of her apartment and her body cavities. Then, her growing trust in a fellow doctor (Ronald Zehrfeld) and a compassion for an abused patient compel her to a course of moral courage.

In these circumstances, moments of simple humanity become intensely moving, as when a patient’s grateful family gives the doctors a basket of fresh garden vegetables.

The low-key performances beautifully convey the de-humanizing effects of oppression, especially Hoss, who catches her breath every time she hears a car outside. The visuals capture the crumbling infrastructure of a failed economic system.

In an era of increasing surveillance and over-reaching central planners, Barbara serves as a powerful cautionary tale. It’s also a damn good movie.


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About David

David Leopold is an actor, writer and videographer who would take a Sherpa ride up a Tibetan mountain to see an Edwige Feuillère movie.