« Back to Events
January 5, 2013
Showtimes (change daily)
1:30, 4:00, 6:30, 9:00

A gripping cold war thriller about an accomplished East German physician who finds herself torn between the promise of escape across the border and her growing love for a fellow colleague

Set in 1980s East Germany, the new film from renowned director Christian Petzold is a suspenseful chamber piece about an accomplished Berlin physician—played by the incomparable Nina Hoss—exiled to a small town from East Berlin as punishment for applying for an exit visa from the GDR. Planning to flee for Denmark with her boyfriend, Barbara remains icy and withdrawn around her colleagues, particularly with the lead physician (the excellent Ronald Zehrfeld), who is hiding a secret of his own. With her patients, however, the guarded doctor is kind, warm, and protective, even risking her own safety for one of her charges. She finds herself 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. Masterfully controlled and totally absorbing, this Cold War thriller expertly details the costs of telling and withholding the truth. Winner of the Silver Bear for Best Director at this year’s Berlin Film Festival. (Germany, 2012, 105 min., color, 35mm – Director/Co-Writer: Christian Petzold – Writer: Harun Farocki – Cast: Nina Hoss, Ronald Zehrfeld, Jasna Fritzi Bauer, Mark Waschke, Rainer Bock – 2012 New York Film Festival – 2012 Toronto Film Festival)

“One of the Year’s Best Films.” -Manohla Dargis, The New York Times

“One of the Year’s Best Films.” -A.O. Scott, The New York Times

“It is said that some performances carry a film. In ‘Barbara’ Nina Hoss does exactly that in an unusually literal way: she holds the tension and the import of this quietly suspenseful movie in her face and her body. An ideal vehicle for this most poised and enigmatic of actresses, a regal blonde Hitchcock would have loved. A heroine adrift…is jolted into the here and now. Controlled and absorbing, without a single wasted shot or gesture.” -Dennis Lim, The New York Times

“A quietly gripping thriller. A riveting performance.” -Mark Olsen, The Los Angeles Times

“The gripping new film Barbara, Germany’s official submission for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, Barbara is the most compelling depiction since The Lives of Others of day-to-day life in a modern surveillance state, in this case the communist East Germany of the early 1980s. The film becomes a profound indictment against the type of society in which allegiance to a political system overwhelms common humanity. Barbara gets the details right in terms of depicting the inauthentic, paranoid lives people led behind the Iron Curtain — particularly those with secrets to keep. The film also captures the creepy voyeurism that fuels the modern surveillance state — where the bogus imperatives of political fanatics justify shocking levels of access into people’s private lives. Nina Hoss is already getting Oscar buzz for her performance as Barbara, and with good reason: She brings a distinctly European mixture of intelligence, world-weariness and discreet sexiness to her role. (It’s easy to imagine Deborah Kerr or Eleanor Parker playing her role in another era.) The totalitarian society shown in Barbara is also one that was doomed to collapse, in no small measure due to the type of quiet heroism and compassion depicted in the film. That’s Barbara’s other big takeaway — the importance of individual heroism, and fidelity to one’s conscience — and it’s a message that’s as important today as it was when the Wall came down.” -Jason Apuzzo, Huffington Post

“ ‘Barbara,”’ directed by Christian Petzold, is a quiet, tense drama set in East Germany in 1980 and stars the remarkable Nina Hoss as a doctor struggling to preserve a sense of autonomy and dignity in a society predicated on lies, treachery and paranoia.” -A.O. Scott, The New York Times

“****. Christian Petzold’s latest festival favorite is tautly paced as a chamber play, and as dense with implications as a novel. It’s a melodrama without the melo—a parable of the heart that’s defined by muted, ambiguous emotions and understated aesthetics. The year may be filthy with cinematic feats of CGI implausibility, yet no special effect this year comes close to what Nina Hoss can accomplish with simple but unbearably explosive eye contact.” -Eric Hynes, Time Out New York

“Communism isn’t just an ideological juggernaut in Christian Petzold’s ‘Barbara;’ it’s a passionless system that produces collective numbness. As a result, any kind of emotional expression is a dangerous and courageous act. Nina Hoss’s titular doctor initially seems incapable of such feeling, as her movements are methodical and concise, her words strict and reserved. But this cold façade quickly begins to crack, and another identity is revealed beneath her chameleon-like surface, one completely at odds with the rigorously defined surroundings. Set in East Germany during the early 1980s, Petzold’s brilliant character study is first and foremost a morality tale about the conflict between individualism and selflessness. Barbara’s surprising capacity for compassion during doctor/patient interactions suggests a pragmatic woman trying to simultaneously transcend and circumvent an impossible living situation. Yet this amazing bedside manner consistently compromises her desire to escape with a lover to West Germany. When considering this duality, each tense dialogue sequence bristles with palpable anxiety, as if repression and suspicion have become organically linked to the surroundings. Therefore, the compromises Barbara makes to retain her patient’s human dignity can be seen as political acts devoid of rhetoric or posturing.” -Glenn Heath Jr.,

” ‘Barbara,’ which was just a few days ago deemed Germany’s entry into the best foreign film race, turned out to be almost universally beloved.” -Chris Willman, Reuters/The Wrap

“Superb. A 1980s East German love story told with breathtaking subtlety and control.” -Justin Chang, Daily Variety

“****. Nina Hoss unfolds her character magnificently.” -Jonathan Romney, Screen International

“The best in (Berlin’s 2012) competition.” -Kevin B. Lee, Roger

“Petzold’s new film Barbara affirms his talent for evoking an aura of suspicion and tension that’s subtly unnerving without overly asserting itself. And he has the perfect actress in Hoss, a Verhoeven blonde who walls herself under an icy, withering stare but lets down her guard enough to where we recognize how carefully practiced (and necessary) her act is for survival.” -Scott Tobias, The Onion

“Packed with atmosphere, suspense and riveting acting, ‘Barbara’ is a superb film that pits a hunger for freedom against other human impulses and desires. The tautness created is capable of mesmerizing audiences of whatever nationality. At the core is a spellbinding performance by the luminous Nina Hoss in the title role.” -William Wolf

“ ‘Barbara,’ set in East Germany, 1980, evokes another fraught workplace. Vibrating with tense self-possession in the title role, Nina Hoss is a dissident doctor driven from Berlin to a provincial hospital where she can more easily be kept under observation. Christian Petzold’s anxious minimalist thriller habituates the viewer to stand to attention at the merest crunch of gravel in a driveway.” -Nick Pinkerton, Village Voice

“The two leads are wonderful; they sizzle with unspoken thoughts even when they’re four feet away from each other discussing meningitis. The beautiful Hoss is intense, sultry, utterly adult.” -Farran Smith Nehme, New York Post

“Petzold’s film is a powerful reminder of his gift and promise as a filmmaker; of a piece with his terrific Beats Being Dead segment in last year’s Dreileben trilogy. ‘Barbara’ is full of tonal command and a slow, burning patience. I’m not sure that another director would have the ability to pull off such a stoic, complicated story, one that marks a steep shift in the value system of its protagonist who, ultimately, must choose between one form of debasement in the East and another, perhaps more insidious set of restrictions, in her dreams of freedom. ‘Barbara’ is Petzold’s antimelodrama, a feminist film that provides a crystalline look back at the lost idealism of the Communist East through a mirror, reversing expectations and asserting a more complicated idea of the self.” -Lori Donnelly, Filmmaker Magazine

“Galvanizing. Nina Hoss’ brilliant portrayal of Barbara establishes the film as a tribute to women’s strength, spirit, dignity, generosity and determination. A must-see!” -Jennifer Merin,

“Talk about a piercing stare. Nina Hoss has been well represented in German cinema for a while now, but it’s her lead role as the titular character in Christian Petzold’s 1980s set drama ‘Barbara’ that really showcases her power, causing audiences outside of her country to really take notice of her considerable skill. Hoss spends a good portion of the movie as a nurse wearing a chilly, borderline hostile disposition, only revealing true compassion to the various ailing hospital patients she tends to. But a potential romance and increased attention from the State Security begin to weigh on her, spidering a few cracks on her shielded ego, and eventually some warmth begins to leak out. The softening of Barbara is an organic transformation, a slow ripening of the soul that Hoss pulls off in spades. It’s not the most unique character — the standoff-ish person becomes lighter and brighter with love — but the actress makes it feel fresh, and most importantly, tangible. Right now she’s Petzold’s muse, but we’d love to see what Michael Haneke would do with her, or better yet, how up and comers Ulrich Köhler or Markus Schleinzer would utilize her strengths.” -Indiewire, The Playlist