“Barbara” is perfectly easy to watch, but it has more in common with a superior episode of a hospital-set continuing drama than it does with “The Lives Of Others”.
It’s in German, with English subtitles and was shown as part of the Discover Tuesdays series of films at Stratford Picturehouse, where I saw it with a big crowd. They all adored it and were buzzing about it afterwards.
Set in 1980, Barbara (the very beautiful and talented Nina Hoss) is a doctor who is exiled from Berlin to a remote hospital. It’s the height of Stasi-controlled East Germany. Barbara has done something very wrong but her crime against the state is not explained.
Her West German boyfriend provides trysts, treats and an escape plan.
Resident doctor Andre (Ronald Zehrfeld who is also very easy on the eye) and Barbara start off distant and develop admiration for each other’s diagnoses and bedside manner. So far, so “General Hospital” or “Doctors” and you know where those plots go, don’t you?
It’s not quite as straightforward as that. West German boyfriend Klaus (Rainer Bock; very handsome indeed) has a detailed plan to get Barbara out of a life that includes regular and unscheduled visits and searches from agents of the state.
The icky body searches and operations are soft focus and not as graphic as those in many hospital soap operas.
The ending disappointed me hugely. I felt it was such a cop out. Heck, it’s probably just me being grumpy.
In the smaller roles, Jasna Fritzi Bauer stands out as Stella, a patient at the hospital.
Christian Petzold directs and the whole zaps along very nicely, helped by stunning scenery and a nice line in tinkly music.
All in all, it just didn’t move me, even though everything and everyone in it is just gorgeous.