Barbara (2012)

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Released 17-Jul-2013

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Madman Propaganda x 4
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2012
Running Time 100:51
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Christian Petzold

Madman Entertainment
Starring Nina Hoss
Ronald Zehrfeld
Rainer Bock
Christina Hecke
Claudia Geisler
Peter Weiss
Carolin Haupt
Deniz Petzold
Rosa Enskat
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Stefan Will

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None German Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes, constantly
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

†††† In the summer of 1980, in a still divided Germany, East German doctor Barbara Wolff (Nina Hoss) is banished from Berlin to work in the provincial clinic run by Doctor Andre Reiser (Ronald Zehrfeld). Her crime? Applying officially for permission to leave East Germany and join her West German boyfriend. In the small town Barbara is closely watched and harassed by the secret police led by officer Klaus Schutz (Rainer Bock); Barbara is frequently stopped and questioned in the street, her flat searched and she is strip searched. Nevertheless, Barbara is able to remain in touch with her boyfriend and together they plan for her to exit illegally from East Germany from a nearby beach.

†††† While waiting to leave, Barbara is a conscientious doctor and forms a bond with her patients including the misfit Stella (Jasna Fritzi Bauer), although she remains aloof from the other clinic staff. But Andre confuses Barbara. He is friendly and caring and seems to value Barbaraís professionalism and her opinion and although Barbara tries to keep him at a distance she is drawn to his smile and his abilities. Yet, she cannot help but believe that he has also been set by the secret police to watching her and report on her. As the night approaches for her flight to the west, Barbara is faced with conflicting emotions and is forced to make some hard decisions about her life.

†††† Barbara is a slowly developing story about life in the police state that was East Germany. In its advertising, Barbara has been likened to The Lives of Others (2006), which is fair enough gives its subject matter. But that earlier film focussed upon a man from within the Stazi apparatus, whereas Barbara is very much from the point of view of a victim of that paranoid state security. Barbara knows she is being watched; there is frequently a car outside her window and the Stazi invade her life at will, and the challenge that the film shows well is her attempt to live as normal a life as possible within that environment, and to remain compassionate and human.

†††† Writer / director Christian Petzold won a Silver Bear for best director at the Berlin International Film festival for Barbara and the film was selected as Germanyís entrant for best foreign language film at the 2013 Academy Awards. It is a very intelligent film, excellent at evoking the period; the streets are sparsely populated, Barbaraís flat and the clinic are plain and austere, there are few cars, and there is the sense that someone is always watching. However, there are no cardboard villains; even obnoxious Stazi man Schutz has a life and a family, but the film shows clearly what life was like for anyone, be they Stella, Barbara or Andre, who even attempts to buck the all-invasive, all-pervading state system. Another real strength of Barbara is the performance of Nina Hoss. She previously worked with Petzold in his film Yella (2007), for which she won a Silver Bear for best actress, and she is equally impressive in Barbara. Ronald Zehrfeld is also very good in that there is a distance and reserve in both performances, which would indeed reflect the way of life in Honeckerís East Germany.

†††† I enjoyed Barbara a lot although for me the film didnít quite have the emotional impact of The Lives of Others because the journey undertaken by the Stazi officer in that film created a much greater character arc. In contrast, Barbara is a quiet film with restrained performances, where the intensity of emotions are below the surface. Nevertheless, Barbara is an excellent film that is beautifully made and beautifully acted, evoking the period well.

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Transfer Quality


†††† Barbara is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, the original ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced.

†††† This is a low key, natural looking print. Close-up detail is sharp and wide shots look good. Colours are natural; the green of the forest and fields and the blue of the sky in exteriors are deep, whereas most interiors lack colour, reflecting the life in Communist East Germany. Blacks and shadow detail are fine, skin tones natural, brightness and contrast consistent.

†††† There was some ghosting with movement against mottled backgrounds, such as the forest, and some slight aliasing. The end titles also shimmered but otherwise artefacts were absent.

†††† The layer change at 51:16 created a slight pause in the middle of a scene.

†††† There are yellow subtitles in English English which appeared timely and did not contain any obvious spelling or grammatical errors.

†††† The print was good.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


†††† Audio is a German Dolby Digital 5.1 track at 448 Kbps.

†††† Dialogue is clear and centred. The surround sound design is very naturalistic, with music sparsely used. There are a number of silences which are broken in the clinic by loud banging doors elsewhere in the building, a nice touch. The rears are also used for weather effects, such as the wind and the waves at the beach. The sub-woofer was little used except for the wheels of the rail motor and the waves, but was not really needed.

†††† The original music by Stephan Will was used sparingly and was effective.

†††† Lip synchronisation is fine.

†††† The audio track was appropriate for the film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Theatrical Trailer (1:56)

Madman Propaganda

†††† Trailers for The Kid with a Bike (1:48), A Royal Affair (1:56), The Source (2:20) and Certified Copy (2:01).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

†††† A review of the German Region B Blu-ray of Barbara lists as extras two featurettes, one with the director and cast, the other with the cinematographer, costume designer and production designer, but although the feature has English subtitles, the extras do not. As far as DVD is concerned, there is a Region 0 German release, which based on the Blu-ray is unlikely to have English subtitles, and a Region 2 UK release that has no extras. There is not currently a Region 1 US version listed. Buy local.


†††† Barbara is beautifully made and beautifully acted, evokes the period well and is worth a look for anyone remotely interested in quality European filmmaking.

†††† The video and audio are good, trailers are the only extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Tuesday, September 03, 2013
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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