Sunday, March 31, 2013

Barbara (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


In "Barbara", we get a little atmospheric noir coupled with history. This eerie and smart film is directed by Christian Petzold, who also helmed 2008's "Jerichow", a critically acclaimed thriller.

The story puts us in East Germany in the 1980s at a hospital near the Baltic Sea. Barbara (Nina Hoss) is a doctor with many secrets. She was once employed at a prestigious hospital, due to her wish to leave the German Democratic Republic. Barbara hides currency in her bathtub and conducts covert amorous trysts with her boyfriend Jorg (Mark Waschke). Along with her double life Barbara is a near genius physician.

Nothing gets past her. Her genius verve catches the eye of a young Dr. Reiser (Ronald Zehrfeld).

But can he be trusted?

In addition to her lusty meetings with Jorg, Barbara goes to an old hill on a forgotten road and buries cash and documents under a huge arcing wooden cross. These scenes have echoes of Nathaniel Hawthorne and the essence of All Hallows' Eve, and the exteriors are shot with all the painterly qualities of a Renoir canvas. The interior scenes of the hospital contain all the detached nervousness of a Michael Haneke 21st century fright film.

Nina Hoss is perpetually entrancing, possessing something of the mystical Hitchcock Blonde. One scene in particular with Hoss and Waschke involved in an East German hotel, might even make you think of the opening of "Psycho" with Janet Leigh and John Gavin tossing about on the bed beyond the Hollywood censors.

Hoss is as wistful and mysterious here as the vertiginous Kim Novak, even without the spiraling and vivid titles by Saul Bass. With every step the eye shutters in apprehension---The Stasi is only a high heel's click away from being summoned. The sight of a midnight blue Mercedes is as foreboding as a raven, its slick noiseless tread as visceral as any night in "The French Connection".

Nothing is as fearsome as the tan-complexioned man in a blue suit (Rainer Block) as he waits for a table or stands in a corner, silent and unassuming.

Christian Petzold reveals the real life "North by Northwest" paranoia that existed in the 1980s before the tumble of The Wall and the audience will be well pleased by some hauntingly poetic detail of East Germany, not to mention The Cold War tensions as seen through a pair of ice blue eyes.

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