Watch Barbara

  • PG-13
  • 2012
  • 1 hr 45 min
  • 7.2  (15,719)
  • 86

Set in East Germany in 1980, Barbara is a drama film directed by German filmmaker Christian Petzold. The movie revolves around a talented doctor named Barbara, played by Nina Hoss, who is transferred from the West to the East as a punishment for applying for an exit visa. She is forced to work in a rural hospital, far away from her partner in the West. In a repressive state where the government's every move is scrutinized, Barbara struggles to regain her freedom, her identity and her right to be with her loved ones.

The movie begins with Barbara arriving by bus in the East German countryside. A woman with a cold and blunt manner, Barbara initially comes across as aloof, detached, and unconcerned about the other people around her. However, as the movie progresses, we begin to understand her reasons for being so guarded. The atmosphere of the hospital is tense and suspicious, and Barbara is under constant surveillance by the senior physician, Dr. André Reiser, played by Ronald Zehrfeld. Reiser is a complex character - charming yet manipulative - who is constantly testing Barbara's resolve.

As Barbara starts to explore the small town, she befriends a young girl who is also being treated at the hospital. The girl, Stella, has a similar rebellious streak to Barbara, and they both share a sense of alienation from their surroundings. While Barbara longs for her partner in the West, for Stella, the relationship with her father is strained, and she yearns for some form of affection.

The film's pacing is slow and deliberate, allowing the audience to immerse themselves in the detailed and realistic portrayal of life in East Germany. The performances of Hoss and Zehrfeld are both remarkable, with their chemistry being one of the highlights of the movie. Hoss plays Barbara with a deep sense of inner turmoil, conveying a mix of vulnerability, strength, and defiance. Zehrfeld delivers a nuanced performance, embodying the internal conflict of a man who is both an enforcer of the state and a human being with feelings.

The cinematography is exquisite, capturing the bleak beauty of the East German countryside, as well as the tension and claustrophobia of the hospital. The use of natural light, soft focus and a muted color palette contribute to the movie's melancholic tone.

One of the film's strengths is the way in which it explores the themes of freedom, control, and betrayal. Petzold draws on the inherent contradictions of the East German system, where the state offered benefits such as job security and housing at the cost of individual liberties. The characters are constantly aware of the power held by the state, and the risk to their personal safety and autonomy. Barbara's growing sense of isolation and anxiety is palpable, as she tries to navigate the conflicting demands of her loyalty to her patients, her career, and her own longing for self-determination.

In conclusion, Barbara is a compelling and thought-provoking movie that delves deep into the human psyche. It explores the themes of identity, allegiance, and independence against the backdrop of a repressive state. The movie's slow pace, exquisite cinematography, and superb performances from its lead actors draw the audience into a world where trust is scarce, and every decision carries a consequence. It is a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made by those who sought to escape the tyranny of the East German regime, and the price that was paid for their freedom.

Barbara is a 2012 drama with a runtime of 1 hour and 45 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.2 and a MetaScore of 86.

Where to Watch Barbara
Barbara is available to watch free on Kanopy. It's also available to stream, download and buy on demand at Amazon Prime, Apple TV and Google Play. Some platforms allow you to rent Barbara for a limited time or purchase the movie and download it to your device.
  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 45 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    7.2  (15,719)
  • Metascore