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Movie review: 'Barbara' an engaging Cold War character study

Published January 11, 2013 10:31 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

"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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Opens Friday, Jan. 11, at the Broadway Centre Cinemas; rated PG-13 for some sexual material, thematic elements and smoking; in German with subtitles; 105 minutes.