Barbara, a Berlin doctor has been banished to rural East Germany by the GDR. One her arrival in the country side, she starts a job at the youth ward of a rural clinic. While there she keeps to herself, clearly plotting her escape with her husband through secret meetings in the desolate woods and shady hotels. Christian Petzold's Barbara is a poetic story about one woman's struggle between desire, survival and morality. Early on the film does a great job at capturing the claustrophobia of the small town life in which Barbara can trust no one. I particularly loved the color palette which the film uses during the night time sequences, that dark orange lighting really aids in intensifying the tension which Barbara most certainty fears as awoman whose constantly in suspense. For the most part the audience is kept in the dark about Barbara's past and exact intentions, only witnessing her late night coastal bike rides, how she hides money in the secluded rocks and even her rendezvous with her husband, but the her exact plans are never explained til the end. Barbara is very quiet and reserved around her co-workers and the people of the town, seemingly avoiding all attempts at making friends with her colleagues as if afraid that anyone could be a spy of the GDR. The one exception is Andre, the head physician of the clinic, who is very warm and kind towards Barbara. At first pushing him away like everyone else, Barbara soon enough realizes that he might be the key to her ultimate salvation. This fact is magnified by the interesting relationship dynamic between Barbara and her husband. The filmmakers handle it very subtlety, suggesting that her husband simply views Barbara as nothing more than an ornament or possession as opposed to an equal. As the film progresses, with Barbara getting closer and closer to her escape, we see the type of compassionate person she is through her relationship with her young patients. Particularly a young girl, Stella, whose pregnancy leads her to conflict with the GDR, something which Barbara knows far too well. These young patients and Andre are really the driving force of the story, inflicting change in Barbara as she realizes some things are more important than escaping the small rural town and the GDR. Christian Petzold's Barbara is not a film that fits solely into a specific genre. It's a film that has romance, drama and thriller elements ultimately leading to a searing portrait of one woman's struggle and ultimate sacrifice.
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