Barbara (Film) Review

Barabara_Plakat_07_Layout 1Welcome to our first collaborative review of 2016! Last year’s Collab was a blast as far as I’m concerned, featuring many, many films I never would have picked to watch myself but I’m glad I’ve seen. Yes, even the really awful ones.

I’m excited to see what this year will bring in terms of hidden gems, heinous mistakes and everything in between.

We’ve agreed that this period is about doing whatever the fuck we want, so I think it’s a bolder version of Blog Free & Die Hard. Blog Free & Die Even Harder, if you will (and in lieu of anything more imaginative, it’s been a really aggy day.)

This week we’re watching a German film (Jill’s choice) and I have high hopes for a decent rating. Let’s see shall we?

Barbara (2012)

Director: Christian Petzold
Stars: Nina Hoss, Ronald Zehrfeld, Rainer Bock

IMDB Synopsis: A doctor working in 1980s East Germany finds herself banished to a small country hospital.

My Review:

Barbara is a chain-smoking doctor, recently moved to a rural town having just been released from being incarcerated.

Incarcerated?! I hear you cry. Well, because I’m quite dippy and was texting at the beginning of this movie (bad Christa), I missed why she was locked up and thought it was for some dark and twisted reason. In fact, according to Barbara’s Wikipedia page, she was punished for applying for an “Ausreiseantrag” – an official request to leave the country, and specifically, East Germany. I never knew of such a thing, so I’ve learnt something new here. Oo-er.

Anyway. Barbara is treated like scum by local police officers who continually hang around her home and randomly search her premises, looking for contraband and anything they can pin on her. They also subject her to humiliating cavity searches, seemingly for their own shits ‘n’ gigs. It’s all very perverse and these man are pigs, unsurprisingly.

On her first day at her new hospital posting, Barbara stands out, and not in a particularly good way. The other doctors mutter things about that being “Berlin” for you and basically they think she’s a stuck up cow. Maybe she’s just sick of shit and wants to be left the fuck alone, you bitches.

“I am smokin’ a faaaaaaaag.”

My first observation about Barbara is superficial AF: she dresses cute and I like her accessories. She also looks cool smoking, which is a bad message but I don’t care. If I thought I looked as good, I would start myself (but probably with candy cigarettes).

B quickly catches the eye of nice Doctor André Reiser who tells her she shouldn’t stay so “separate”. This unwarranted advice does not go down very well (and rightly so, mate). Plus, he lets slip while giving her a lift home that he already knows where she lives, and therefore everything else about her.

Our heroine warms somewhat when a young patient called Stella (Jasna Fritzi Bauer) turns up, thus demonstrating she isn’t the Ice Queen we all think she is (or rather the hospital team think she is).

Stella has meningitis and is also pregnant. B goes out of her way to ensure she’s taken care of, until she is rudely dragged back to the labour camp in which she’s being kept. Stella’s options in life are rather limited it would seem: if she decides to keep the baby and stays in the country, she will have it taken away from her, no questions asked.

“Most people text their dick pics these days, love.”

In the midst of the drams, Barbara correctly guesses that Doctor Reiser is reporting back to the authorities on her behaviour and has been tasked with trying to get her to change her mind about leaving Germany. He tells her a horrific story about boiling babies in an incubator (accidentally) to explain why he’s agreed to do this.

He’s also obviously smitten with her but too much of a wet blanket to do anything about it. There are lots of lingering looks and secret smiles, and at one point he sends over a piano tuner to fix her piano. Barbara is not impressed with the unexpected surprise.

I would think André was fit if he didn’t so resemble Brendan Fraser who does zilch for me. There is a frisson between Barbara and André though, espesh when he talks to her about art and literature. Hey, she plays the piano and came from a prestigious hospital before this one, okay? She’s cultured, innit.

Up to no good but looking fucking fabulous

But Babs already has a West German lover called Jörg (Mark Waschke) who sends her money and gifts, and sometimes meets her for secret rendezvous’ in woodland clearings and hotel rooms. I’m not really sure what or who he is but he’s trying to smuggle B out of the country so they can be together.

One night, in a motel room, Jörg explains that the following Saturday night, Barbara must be at a certain meeting point on the beach, (between a big boulder and a small boulder). There she will be picked up by a sailor who will take her to Denmark, where he’ll be waiting.

Barbara also meets a prostitute on the same night which has little bearing on the story, other than to emphasise the fact that even if she marries her lover (Jörg’s friend Gerhard (I think) played by Peter Benedict), he still can’t save her from East Germany politics. She also assumes B is a hooker*.

“I loved you in George of the Jungle…”

Barbara is surprised at how fast everything is moving but is prepared to roll with it. She books the weekend off work with Doctor Reiser, telling him she will be doing up her flat. Thing is,  the hospital has just admitted a new patient, a failed suicide, and the doctors are reluctant to operate on his head injury unnecessarily. Having monitored him for several days, however it becomes clear that they have no alternative but to crack him open like a walnut.

André asks B to be the anesthetist on call the night they operate. And what night will that be, do you think? Hmmmmm.

Meanwhile, Stella escapes from boot camp again and runs off to find her old friend Barbara… Gonna park this here, but not before a round of you-know-whats!

“We’re all going on a Summer Holiday…”

My Questions: 

Does Babs dig the Doctor really? What will become of Stella? Will Barbara abandon her new duties in favour of a new life with Jörg?

What will happen to the head patient Mario (Jannik Shümann)? And will you care by the end of it all?

*At one point the prostitute, Steffi (Susanne Bormann) enters Jörg’s hotel room, not realising Babs is under the covers in bed – and sniffs his suits. I took this in my suspicious mind to assume there might have been something between them, or at the very least that Jörg isn’t that trustworthy. Was that just me, Jill? 

My Thoughts:

This wasn’t a bad film to start the year on. It wasn’t as good as I’d hoped either. The performances are good. I find Nina Hoss quite fascinating. All in all I expected more.

My Rating: 3/5. Bit dull TBH but it means well. 

Does Jillian agree or she more sophisticated than me in her cinematic tastes? Find out here.

5 thoughts on “Barbara (Film) Review

  1. YES. Blog Free or Die Harder: theme for this year.
    I regret nothing, not even Monkey’s Paw! (Ok, maybe just a little bit.)
    I didn’t fucking trust Jorg either, and not ONLY because he was a blonde German dude (and therefore already a suspected Nazi) and his name rhymes with “Borg.” There was definitely something off there.
    Everyone should have just left Barbara alone to look ridiculously good smoking/bicycling/existing.

    Liked by 1 person

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