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Set in East Germany in the early 1980s, the new film from renowned director Christian Petzold (Jerichow) is a suspenseful chamber piece about an accomplished Berlin physician, banished to a rural hospital as punishment, who is torn between the promise of escape across the border and her growing love for a fellow colleague — who may be planning to betray her to the secret police.
For more about Barbara and the Barbara Blu-ray release, see Barbara Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on December 18, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Christian Petzold
Writer: Christian Petzold
Starring: Nina Hoss, Ronald Zehrfeld, Rainer Bock, Christina Hecke, Jasna Fritzi Bauer, Mark Waschke
» See full cast & crew
Barbara Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, December 18, 2012
Selected to represent Germany at the Oscars, Christian Petzold's "Barbara" (2012) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of German label Indigo. The supplemental features on the disc include original trailer for the film and two featurettes with director Christian Petzold, actors Nina Hoss and Ronald Zehrfeld, cinematographer Hans Fromm, costume designer Anette Guther, and production designer K.D. Gruber. In German, with optional English and German SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
The main protagonist in Christian Petzold's latest film is a young doctor living in East Germany during the early '80s. Her name is Barbara (Nina Hoss, The Downfall of Berlin: Anonyma, Yella) and she has just been transferred from Berlin to a small town in the middle of nowhere. This is a forced move, a punishment of sorts, which Barbara has earned because she has applied for a permit to visit West Germany, where Jorg (Mark Waschke, Habermann), the man she is in love with, lives.
Barbara rarely talks to anyone in the local hospital. She works hard and spends her free time alone, thinking about the future, imagining a life together with Jorg. Then one day a local girl in serious condition is brought in the hospital by the authorities and Barbara suddenly discovers a side of her new boss Andre (Ronald Zehrfeld, The Red Cockatoo) she never thought existed – while taking care of Stella (Jasna Fritzi Bauer, Für Elise) she realizes that he is a kind man who has also struggled to live an honorable life. Soon after, while on duty the two begin spending time together and talking about their lives.
Eventually, Jorg secretly visits Barbara. They make love and then discuss how to get Barbara out of the country. The plan is simple and Jorg is convinced that it will work. Barbara is also convinced that it is only a matter of time before she reunites with her lover in West Germany.
In the days that follow, however, Stella is sent to a nearby labor camp. Somehow she manages to escape and returns to Barbara, the only person she trusts, looking for help. But Barbara has only a few hours left before she will meet the man who will take her to Jorg.
The film is very slow and deceivingly quiet, exactly like life on the other side of the Iron Curtain was. From afar everything seemed incredibly peaceful, but agents and informants were everywhere, looking for 'enemies', treating people like objects. The 'troublemakers', like Stella, who couldn't handle the paranoia anymore, were quickly dealt with, either by being sent to labor camps where they would eventually die or simply by making them disappear (many were basically killed and their relatives told that they had defected in the West).
Barbara recreates this absolutely maddening environment incredibly well. There is a point in the film where Barbara finally warms up to Andre, but then immediately begins questioning her instincts. Did she see everything there is to see about Andre? Does he truly like her or is he friendly with her because he is yet another informer following orders? Did she say something 'inappropriate' that might have inspired his interest in her? Hoss is astonishing here. One gets a real sense of how difficult it must have been for a lot of people to lead a normal life while suspecting everyone around them, constantly feeling watched by invisible informers.
All of the key relationships in the film have a touch of artificiality in them, which is intentional. The idea behind it is to show how awkward relationships and friendships were. One sequence, in particular, sums up exceptionally well how people were forced to be pathologically dishonest with each other. After Barbara and Jorg make love in the hotel room and he leaves to meet his colleagues, another girl, who has spent some time with Jorg's best friend, enters Barbara's room. Pay close attention to her conversation with Barbara. It is heartbreaking.
Note: Earlier this year, Barbara won Film Award in Silver for Outstanding Feature Film (Bester Spielfilm) at the German Film Awards. Barbara also won Silver Bear Award for Best Director (Christian Petzold) and Reader Jury of the "Berliner Morgenpost" Award at the Berlin International Film Festival.
Barbara Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080/50i transfer, Christian Petzold's Barbara arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Indigo.
Note: Even though the transfer is flagged as 1080/50i, it is actually progressive. So, there is no motion-judder and interlacing.
Excluding some extremely light banding that I noticed early into the film (the sequence where Barbara sits on the bench to have a smoke before she enters the hospital), the film looks solid in high-definition. Close-ups boast excellent definition and consistently pleasing clarity (see screencapture #5), while the wider panoramic shots convey very good depth (see screencapture #3). Contrast levels are stable. From start to finish color reproduction is enormously satisfying - there is a wide range of well saturated, natural looking greens, blues, browns, grays, and blacks. No attempts have been made to apply problematic sharpening corrections. Compression is also solid. For the record, there are no serious stability issues to address in this review. To sum it all up, Barbara looks lovely on Blu-ray, and I am convinced that those who have been hoping to get an English-friendly release of it will definitely be pleased with the technical presentation. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Barbara Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two standard audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc. German DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and German Dolby Digital 2.0. For the record, Indigo have provided optional English and German SDH subtitles for the main feature.
The lossless is solid. Barbara is primarily a dialog-driven feature and clarity and crispness are quite impressive. There are a couple of sequences where Stefan Will's music score is felt, but the atmosphere is indeed quite subdued. Surround movement is minimal at best. The English translation is excellent.
Barbara Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Barbara Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Barbara is a flawless film. I think that it recreates perfectly the maddening environment people in East Germany had to endure under Erich Honecker. It may not impress those who never experienced it, but those who have will immediately recognize how incredibly accurate everything in the film is. I must also say that the two leads, Nina Hoss and Ronald Zehrfeld, are astonishing. If you could play Region-B "locked" discs, I urge you to consider importing Barbara. It is one of the year's best films. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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Barbara Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Barbara Blu-ray - September 7, 2012
German label Indigo has revealed that it is planning to release on Blu-ray Christian Petzold's latest film, Barbara (2012), starring Nina Hoss and Ronald Zehrfeld. Last month, the film was selected to represent Germany at next year's Oscars. The preliminary release ...
Barbara Blu-ray Screenshots
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