Saturday, August 25, 2012

Barbara (2012)

DE 2012 © 2011 Schramm Film Koerner & Weber / ZDF / ARTE. EX: Michael Weber. P: Florian Koerner von Gustorf. D+SC: Christian Petzold. Collaboration on SC: Harun Farocki. DP: Hans Fromm - shot on Super 35 (Kodak Vision3 250D 5207, Vixion3 500T 5219) - released on 35 mm and 2K DCP - colour - 1,85:1. PD: Kade Gruber. Cost: Anette Guther. Makeup: Barbara Kreuzer, Alexandra Lebedynski. M: Stefan Will. Frédéric Chopin: Nocturne g-moll opus 15 No. 3. S: Dominik Schleier. ED: Bettina Böhler. Casting: Simone Bär. C: Nina Hoss (Barbara, a doctor), Ronald Zehrfeld (Dr. André Reiser), Rainer Bock (Klaus Schütz, Stasi officer), Christina Hecke (Karin), Claudia Geisler (Schlösser, nurse), Peter Weiss (medical student), Carolin Haupt (medical student), Deniz Petzold (Angelo), Rosa Enskat (Bungert, janitor), Jasna Fritzi Bauer (Stella). Loc: Brandenburg (Kirchmöser, Brandenburg an der Havel), Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (Ahrenshoop: the seashore), Schneidlingen (Hecklingen, Saxony-Anhalt: the train station). 105 min. Released by Future Film with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Antti Mänttäri / Heidi Nyblom Kuorikoski. 2K DCP viewed at Maxim 2, Helsinki, 25 August 2012.

Synopsis from Wikipedia: "East Germany in 1980: Physician Barbara (Nina Hoss) has been transferred for disciplinary reasons because she had filed an "Ausreiseantrag", officially expressing her wish to leave the German Democratic Republic. This puts an end to her career and she is no longer employed by the prestigious Charité in East Berlin, being sent instead to a small hospital near the Baltic Sea. There she works in pediatric surgery, a department led by chief physician André Reiser. The Stasi orders Reiser to approach her in order to gain intelligence on her, but she refuses his advances."

"While Barbara's lover Jörg in West Germany prepares her escape, Reiser is increasingly impressed by Barbara. When a young runaway named Stella is delivered to the hospital, she openly contradicts Reiser, who thought she was just faking and finds out that the girl is suffering from meningitis. He stands corrected and appreciates how she takes care of Stella. She reads the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to her and learns that Stella has escaped from a youth detention centre for so-called juvenile offenders, where she was forced to do hard labour. Stella is pregnant and dreams of raising her child in West Germany, yet she must return to the detention centre."

"Barbara manages to meet Jörg secretly in an “Interhotel” (an East-German hotel designed for foreigners). He offers to move to East Germany instead of her fleeing to join him in the west; he also indicates she will not need to work if she joins him in West Germany because he is wealthy. The Stasi punish Barbara for the hours in which they cannot find her, by raiding her house and even by inflicting strip- and cavity-searches upon her."

"While Barbara is working on a concrete plan to get to Denmark, she accepts Reiser's invitation to dine with him, although she knows he must report to the Stasi. On this occasion she receives a gift from him. It is Ivan Turgenev's A Sportsman's Sketches and Reiser stresses that this book includes the tale of a doctor. They kiss but Barbara still can't let go of her dream of going to West Germany, so she eventually runs away to her own house."

"Stella flees the labour youth detention programme again and, gravely injured by barbed wire, seeks shelter in Barbara's home. Barbara does what she can to treat her wounds and takes her to the shore, where a man comes to pick Barbara up and bring her to Denmark where Jörg is waiting for her. With Barbara's blessing Stella takes advantage of Barbara's elaborate preparations and goes instead of her to Denmark. Barbara returns to keep on working as a doctor at Reiser's side."

An excellent low key account on life in East Germany during the last decade of its existence. It reverses stereotypes: the grim, glum, slightly haughty, hardly ever smiling Barbara (Nina Hoss) is the dissident. The friendly, warm, patient, and self-effacing André (Ronald Zehrfeld) is a Stasi informer, also a prisoner of the system, also a victim of injustice. Barbara is a story about life in a police state where privacy has ceased to exist.

Barbara surprises constantly with interesting observations. The waiters taking a break with their legs up the wall. André's personal lab and his Rembrandt interpretation. New meanings in the novels of Mark Twain and Ivan Turgenev. The circumstances at the Torgay camp for hard labour. State prostitutes working for Stasi. The accuracy in the details of preparing the escape. Interesting realistic detail about the doctors' practice. The feeling of freedom in the forest and on the seashore. The surprise ending which makes sense.

The visual look is intentionally bleak, and the visual quality of the 2K digital projection was fine.

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