Saturday, August 04, 2012


These days it seems that every year there is a new German film about life in East Germany. This year it is Barbara. Barbara is a doctor under surveillance after being released from jail and being sent to work in a small town hospital in the middle of nowhere on the Baltic coast. She has no intention of staying put in her new environment and tries to avoid entanglement with her neighbours and co-workers (who might be working for the Stasi anyway). We all know how badly that is going to work out in a small town; and her boss tells her that straight away. Not only does her standoffish behaviour, her urban chic and taste for West German cigarettes attract attention from her co-workers, her skills and compassion as a doctor do too.

Gradually her burning desire to escape the night visits and body searches by the Stasi and flee to West Germany is undermined by her dedication to two of her young patients and the attentions of her ever-so-nice boss. Unlike The Lives of Others where I was convinced all the way through that things were going to turn out all right in end, Barbara kept an element of doubt right to the end. I think this is because the characters aren't black and white. Barbara, her nice boss, the sadistic Stasi officer, the West German visitors and their local "girlfriends" are all humans that have been corrupted by "the system" in one way or another, and leaving East Germany means leaving other people behind.

I'm sure someone can read something into German film makers current obsession with East Germany just as someone can read something into Hollywood's current obsession with comic book superheroes. But if the product of this German obsession is more films as good as this one then let's have more obsession.

Ian's rating 4/5

A few other recent films about East Germany

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