“Barbara” (2012): 4 star movie

This is a powerful move: involving, intelligent, scary. A bit of a paint-dryer, and no harm in that. Not quite a tear-jerker, which is good. But why did the man in the urinals say it was sentimental?

I enjoyed this tale of an 80’s doctor in East Germany as she wrestles with the tension between the call of her lover and the West, on the one hand, and the doctoring and decency she can perhaps uniquely deploy at home, on the other.

In the lavvy after the show, a chap said he thought it was an OK movie, but “too sentimental”. Well, I’m always game for the thought that I have been indulgent. It is possible that the film proposes the doctor as a class of hero very seldom actually seen. After all, it would have occurred to plenty of people in her predicament that she can doctor in the West as well as in the East, and the doctors in the East aren’t awful. Or is it that the movie sentimentalises the communist East? It is petty unceasing in its presentation of Stasi ghastliness, but it might be argued that the system was so corrupted that it didn’t even have such strands of decency as the film portrays. I can’t see any other obvious angles: the movie may be too nice about the doctor who wants to run, or about the doctor who wants to stay.

I’ll avoid spoilers, but would just say that the evolution of the thinking and feeling of our serious heroine is believable and moving, and it is – after all – a story and a lot less manipulative than most.

(Barbara has, by the way, notes of Monsieur Lazhar and The Debt.)


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Publication date

25 October 2012


On movies