Film Review: ‘Barbara’

BARBARA  Regie Christian Petzold
Nina Hoss never smiles in the Cold War drama “Barbara,” out today.

 

As the title character  in “Barbara,” Nina Hoss doesn’t smile. She isn’t even friendly to Andre (Ronald Zehrfeld), the fellow doctor who dotes on her. The two are stationed in a miserable hospital in a small town with  drab wallpaper, colorless clothes, ominous officials and a general air of zombification. They’re living in East Germany during the Cold War in 1980.
Like the film “The Lives of Others,” “Barbara” takes an unflattering look at life in the German Democratic Republic during the Cold War — but it’s not a comforting portrait of a difficult time we know is safely in the past. Instead, “Barbara” is a character study laced with an old-fashioned “woman’s picture” and meshed with a neo-noir film.
As it becomes slowly evident, Barbara has been banished to this small town after applying for an exit visa. In between regular visits from stern state officials, she still plans her escape. The only time she warms up is during secret visits from her lover, the man who is arranging their defection to the West. Complications arise when he happens upon a young, wounded woman, whose need to get out of the country may eclipse his own.
The career of director Christian Petzold has so far partly been dedicated to methodical neo-noirs; “Jerichow,” his most seen film, was a riff on “The Postman Always Rings Twice.” He has a deliberate, precise style that’s fairly intoxicating, even when the material is familiar. That’s put slightly to the test with “Barbara,” which, despite initial obfuscation, is clearly headed toward a too-tidy redemption/love story. Even before Barbara meets the young woman, it’s obvious  where this will end. The same goes for  whether or not she will warm to Andre, whose persistence — and method of flirting, which involves pointers on art appreciation — would break down even Isabelle Huppert at her most blood-cold.
Foreordained as its conclusion may be, “Barbara” is still rewarding viewing, not only for Petzold’s steady direction, but for the perversely normal way it portrays GDR life. The Stasi look more like common thugs from a film noir than cartoonish baddies, and they’re even afforded moments of humanity. And while Hoss’ impressively mirthless, yet furtively emotional, turn is itself a kind of art house cliche, Zehrfeld does offer an amusing twist as the smitten nice guy who will inevitably finish first.

‘Barbara’
Director: Christian Petzold
Stars: Nina Hoss, Ronald Zehrfeld
Rating: PG-13
Grade: ➊➋➌➍➎



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
News

NY judge throws out lawsuit by Empire State…

A New York state judge has thrown out a lawsuit in which longtime investors in the Empire State Building claimed they were shortchanged out of hundreds of millions of dollars…

Local

Mysterious white flags appear over Brooklyn Bridge

Two white flags mysteriously appeared over the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday in place of the American flags that are a traditional fixture.

Local

Paint Nite: Get drunk and make a painting…

At Paint Nite, New Yorkers can drink and make a painting at a New York City bar.

National

Judge sets January start for murder trial of…

By Elizabeth BarberBOSTON (Reuters) - Former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez will be tried in January for the murder of semi-professional football player Odin…

Arts

Don't miss 'Charles James: Beyond Fashion' at the…

Have you been meaning to see "Charles James: Beyond Fashion"? There are only two weeks left to get to the Met and catch this amazing American fashion designer's collection.

Television

Zac Posen talks 'Project Runway' and what it…

We talked to Zac Posen, judge and designer extraordinaire, about the new season of "Project Runway" and what keeps him coming back after three seasons.

Television

'Face Off' contestant David 'DOC' O'Connell sounds off…

David "DOC" O'Connell tells us about getting cast on Season 7 of Syfy's "Face Off," premiering tonight at 9.

Arts

PHOTO: Wildlife photographer Marc Mol captures amazing aerial…

This aerial image was taken by photographer Marc Mol who spotted the animals during an air safari in Zambia.

MLB

MLB Power Rankings: A's, Angels, Dodgers, Brewers lead…

MLB Power Rankings: A's, Angels, Dodgers, Brewers lead pack

NFL

2014 NFL season betting odds: Which team will…

2014 NFL season betting odds: Which team will win Super Bowl?

NFL

5 players to watch at Giants training camp

Metro takes a look at five players who will be on everyone’s mind when Giants training camp gets underway.

NFL

'Vicktory dogs' travel road to rehabilitation seven years…

Of the dozens of dogs groomed by Bad Newz Kennels, 48 were rescued and 22 of the pit bull terriers have emerged at Best Friends Animal Society.

Tech

Learn Braille with these gloves

U.S. scientists have designed high-tech gloves to help users understand Braille in a matter of minutes.

Home

5 New Ikea products that will change your…

We round-up the latest must-have products.

Food

Recipe: Wolfgang Puck's Buttermilk French Toast

We recently spent some time chatting with restauranteur/celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck at his Wolfgang Puck American Grille in the Borgata in Atlantic City. Puck wanted…

Style

Go retro with your sneakers

The best of wacky new sneakers.