Barbara Screen 19 articles

Barbara

2012

Barbara Poster
  • Period signifiers are so subtle that it took a while before I realized the Wall was still intact. (I'm sure it'd be obvious to Germans, and probably also to anyone who pays more attention to cars and clothes than I do.) Consequently, pleasurable befuddlement reigned, and I felt a bit betrayed when the story's fundamentally conventional shape emerged.

  • Petzold’s tightly wound, well-oiled little narrative exercises proceed with all the lockstep predictability of a metronome; one can almost count the dramatic beats as our heroine dutifully makes her way along her preordained arc. Petzold evidently believes that his expositional reticence and studied flatness of tone gives each crucial action that much more force, each utterance a more resonant echo of unspoken depths.

  • Petzold seems to work best with actresses who bring a sense of mischief against his careful style (Julia Hummer in Ghosts, Luna Mijovic in Beats Being Dead), but chilly Nina Hoss has no such spark. The film thinks it's made Barbara terribly ornery and unpleasant, then uses familiar devices (a piano, a troubled young girl) to prove her humanity.

  • I didn't find this film nearly as rich as the director's last, Beats Being Dead, in the Dreileben triptych, but its acute focus and especially its disturbingly casual, almost normative approach to making a period film (not stylistically similar to but philosophically like Michael Mann's ahistorical historicity in Public Enemies) is sleek and haunting.

  • Barbara's measured quality makes it seem plodding at times, nudged along as it by its sleepily low-key atmospherics, drab backdrop, and succession of medium shots. The sag is offset considerably by the rich sense of detail, from the rickety period bicycles to the credibility of Hoss's furtive, over-the-shoulder glances.

  • The timeless aesthetic and uncanny setting lend a ‘there but for the grace of God’ quality to the film, forcing us into closer proximity with Barbara’s situation. And as we reach the closing act, the possibility for redemption enters Petzold’s purview.

  • Like his previous work, Petzold’s latest milks slow-burn pacing, impeccably composed shots and the talents of his muse Hoss for all they’re worth. Admiration for the director’s sure hand won’t keep you, however, from feeling like this excavation of Germany’s political past may ultimately be a tad too remote for its own good.

  • [The] photographic choices, frequent medium-to-long shots, level framing, and long takes combine to create a slow-moving film, with an emotional reserve, but palpable feelings simmering beneath the surface.

  • This dichotomy's a little too simplistic, especially when the ideological divide is literally embodied in two men, a thematic misstep in an otherwise assured work. (Though it's worth noting that Barbara's a rarity in one plot sense: a love triangle in which only the pivot point is aware of the triangle's existence.)

  • Barbara finds the normally austere Petzold shifting toward a more conventional, humanistically inclined art cinema. His work certainly doesn't suffer for this broadened accessibility. Petzold invests Barbarawith a warmer, more classicist look than usual; he has quite deliberately sanded down the more jagged edges of his directorial style. Nevertheless, Barbara retains the filmmaker's clear-eyed materialism...

  • Of all directors working in Germany today, Christian Petzold has the surest hand and, while, after just one viewing, it's too early to stake a claim forBarbara as his best film yet, it is, in many ways, a culmination of his stylistic progression towards a classic yet vividly contemporary cinematic language.

  • The result is a film that works as both a slow-burning mystery and a character study. Shunning anything resembling clumsy exposition or title cards explaining historical context, Petzold thrusts us into this environment and asks us in the audience to try to get our bearings. As one settles into this world, however, the film becomes more involving as it progresses toward a genuinely gut-wrenching climax.

  • The critique of the GDR culture committed to breaking the spirits of mavericks and rebels and would-be dissidents is secondary to the human story of Barbara’s quiet revolution, a fight against a dehumanizing system that takes a not-unexpected turn that is still so satisfying.

  • German director Christian Petzold’s latest festival favorite is tautly paced as a chamber play, and as dense with implications as a novel. It’s a melodrama without the melo—a parable of the heart that’s defined by muted, ambiguous emotions and understated aesthetics. Despite being the subject of nearly every shot in the film, Hoss maintains an air of mystery, simultaneously projecting severity, sensitivity and sensuousness throughout.

  • The precision makes Barbara, Petzold's first period film, not a wax museum of generic good guys and villains from the not-so-distant past but a richly textured imagining of that time.

  • Working from his own script, Mr. Petzold puts his pieces into play gradually. Early scenes, some nominally observational, others more overtly dramatic, unfold with no obvious narrative connection.

  • “Barbara” is less a straightforward attack on the Communist system than a recognition of the ways in which the enforced idealism of the East German police state promoted unintended and even oppositional forms of solidarity, selflessness, social awareness and strength of character — things perhaps lost in the more prosperous and freer West.

  • Conventional thrillers operate by being stingy with details. Petzold does the opposite; the result is a tense, controlled film that never feels constricting.

  • Any Petzold film hinges on questions of pacing and of how much withholding is too much. Barbarais perhaps slow to get going, yet the increasingly urgent second half, with Hoss called on to mask her motivations with stoic expressions and a general air of impervious disdain, mines unlikely suspense from such small touches as the way the character dangles a cigarette.

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