Starring: Nina Hoss, Ronald Zehrfeld, Rainer Bock
Director: Christian Petzold
Running Time: 105 mins
Barbara is a German film about a woman who is punished for attempting to leave East Berlin for the West by being sent to a small hospital in the provinces, where she struggles to adapt to her new surroundings while still under pressure from the authorities in the last years of the Cold War.
This is an intelligent period drama, but one that fails to develop serious intrigue or thrills. It’s got a pretty predictable story, and unfolds at a painfully slow pace, full of excessive quiet that makes this quite a dull film to watch in the end.
Of course, the intent of the filmmakers here was to create the image of being chucked from the big city into a world that moves very slowly, by giving an understated and patient characteristic to the film, and although that’s an intelligent idea, it just doesn’t work out as well as it should, making for an atmosphere and pace that is just too slow for you to really keep your attention.
Another strong point of this film is the performances. The main two characters, an awkward woman and a friendly doctor, aren’t particularly fascinating to follow, but the actors behind them put in a great show to make their emotions very clear on screen, and if it weren’t for the relatively boring writing, these characters would have been much more interesting by virtue of their performers.
Despite all that, however, the main feel that you get from this film is that it is far too slow and boring. It establishes its characters and setting pretty quickly, but it doesn’t really go anywhere after that, and even the bigger drama that comes towards the end of the film takes a hell of a long time to get going.
What’s more is that the story is very predictable. The drama doesn’t have the power that it should in this understated world because it’s just too easy to see everything that’s coming up, whether it be the development of inter-character relationships or some of the allegedly ‘tense’ drama towards the climax, it’s just never exciting or dramatic to watch unfold.
Overall, this gets a 6.8, because despite good performances and intelligent ideas on paper, this film is really a slow, largely uninteresting and uneventful slog.