Barbara – movie review

Barbara is an excellent German movie about the life of a doctor in rural East Germany in 1980. Nina Hoss plays Barbara, a doctor who is under suspicion by the Secret Police, since she has applied for permission to move out of East Germany.  In retaliation, the government transferred her from a top hospital in East Berlin, to a rural hospital. In addition to surveillance by the Secret Police, she has to deal with suspicions that the local rural hospital staff have for a big city outsider.


The movie is in German with English subtitles, but this does not take away from the film. It is much better than dubbing, since you get to hear the real actors voices.


Ronald Zehrfeld is Andre, another doctor in the hospital.  He openly admits that in addition to his medical duties, part of his job is to send a regular report about her to the Secret Police. Barbara takes this as no more than a minor annoyance, since this sort of thing was common practice in East Germany.  She finds that in addition to being a government informant Andre is also a good and caring doctor.


Jasna Fritzi Bauer plays Stella, a young woman who is repeatedly brought to the hospital for injuries sustained when trying to escape from East Germany. It is left to the audience to decide if Stella is a brave young woman, or simply an insane person.

Alicia von Rittberg is Anna, the girlfriend of a young man recovering from a suicide attempt. She is the one who notices that he somehow seems like a different person now and wonders if there is a medical explanation.

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The movie has an excellent plot and wonderful acting. It intertwines political intrigue with medical drama and daily life. It shows that people’s lives do not take place in  a vacuum. Barbara wants to get out of East Germany, but at the same time does not want to abandon her patients.  The Communist Party officials have given her the official party line that, “the workers and farmers have paid for your education and now it is time to give something back.”  When she tells this to Andre he notes in a matter of fact tone, “that is not entirely incorrect.”

The film shows that political and personal decisions are always intertwined and that choices in life are never simple.

We give this movie Five Stars *****

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