As Joseph Heller wrote in Catch-22, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you”. Barbara’s suspenseful story is set in Cold War East Germany, so everyone is indeed being watched by the Stasi and informed on by their closest associates. Barbara is a doctor who has applied for an exit visa and has therefore been exiled to the hinterlands from a top Berlin hospital. Harassed by the Stasi, she is ever aware of everyone’s motives. She is played by Nina Hoss in a performance that is extraordinarily controlled, alert and suspicious.
Barbara herself is driven by two imperatives – to escape from East Germany and to provide expert and compassionate medical care. The story is a series of moments, some seemingly random, which tie together as the story builds to the climax, when the doctor must bet her life on a decision.
Barbara was co-written and directed by Christian Petzold (he won the Berlin Film Festival’s Silver Bear for his work). Given that’s it difficult to imagine how anyone else could have improved Barbara, I’ll be looking for Petzold’s next movie.