Barbara – 8.5

Another psychological thriller from the bad old days of East Germany. Maybe it’s easier to make a compelling movie about times, like World War II, when things are so black-and-white. Here, everyone is under constant strain, not just to be a good person, but to live up to your own principles while suffering under the unfair demands of the state. Maybe we can fault the film for presenting Dr. Reisen as impossibly good – smart, selfless, attentive to his patients, a reader, a cook and a hunk – but maybe that’s just the way Barbara sees him. Barbara is the interesting one, and the personal choices she has to make are excruciating but ultimately convincing and heartwarming. The fact that Nina Hoss is descended from a Cranach painting adds to the cool Germanity of this tightly plotted, nicely faceted period piece.

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