Movie review: ‘Barbara’ an engaging Cold War character study
Published: January 11, 2013 10:31AM
Updated: January 10, 2013 04:13PM
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Nina Hoss plays Dr. Barbara Wolff, a Berlin doctor reassigned to a rural hospital by the Communist government, in the drama "Barbara." Courtesy Adopt Films

“Barbara” is an intriguing little character study, set behind the Iron Curtain not long before it fell.

Barbara (Nina Hoss) is a 1980s Berlin doctor reassigned to a rural hospital, and she’s determined to serve her stint there without getting involved with any of the locals — while she secretly meets with her West German boyfriend (Mark Waschke) and plots a daring escape to the West. But she soon feels empathy for a patient, Stella (Jasna Fritzi Bauer), a pregnant teen in a labor camp, and starts feeling attraction to the hospital’s lead doctor (Ronald Zehrfeld).

Writer-director Christian Petzold keeps the focus on the small details of Barbara’s new life, from day-to-day hospital work to the regular indignities of the local secret-police agent (Rainer Bock). The fluid storytelling leaves room for Hoss to deliver a strong performance as the flinty, rebellious doctor.

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‘Barbara’

Opens today at the Broadway Centre Cinemas; rated PG-13 for some sexual material, thematic elements and smoking; in German with subtitles; 105 minutes.