"Barbara": An Anesthesiologist's Tale

Despite its distributor's best efforts, Christian Petzold's Barbara was not nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2013 Oscars — and even if it had made the cut, it probably wouldn't have bested Haneke's Amour. Barbara did win a handful of less high-profile awards, and made several critics' "Best of" lists, and while it's a perfectly fine little film, that praise creates expectations that the movie itself doesn't fulfill. Set in East Germany in 1980, the title character (Nina Hoss) is a chain-smoking, upper-class doctor exiled to a rural hospital due to vaguely sinister political reasons. As city doctors must when stranded in the country, at least according to the movies, she finds herself developing emotional attachments to a hunky colleague (Ronald Zehrfeld) and a troubled young patient (Jasna Fritzi Bauer). It's all played so low-key that it never creates much of an impression, with few twists or surprises (at least until Chic's "At Last I Am Free" inexplicably plays over the closing credits). There's nothing wrong with Barbara as a movie, but if you only see one of the two German-language dramas named for a female protagonist currently playing at your local arthouse, Cate Shortland's Lore is the best value for your entertainment Pfennig.

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