Barbara (2012)

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Original title Barbara
Country of production Germany
original language German
Publishing year 2012
length 105 minutes
Age rating FSK 6
Director Christian Petzold
script Christian Petzold,
Harun Farocki
production Florian Koerner von Gustorf ,
Michael Weber
music Stefan Will
camera Hans Fromm
cut Bettina Boehler

Barbara is a German feature film by Christian Petzold from 2012 with Nina Hoss and Ronald Zehrfeld in the leading roles. The drama, for which Petzold also wrote the screenplay, is set in the GDR in 1980 and focuses on a doctor who is transferred to a provincial hospital after she has submitted an application to leave the country. Barbara was produced by Florian Koerner von Gustorf and Michael Weber in collaboration with ZDF and Arte .

The film premiered on February 11, 2012 in the competition at the 62nd Berlinale . The German theatrical release took place on March 8, 2012.

In August 2012, Barbara was selected as Germany's official candidate for an Oscar nomination in the category Best Foreign Language Film . However, the film did not receive a nomination.


The GDR, in the summer of 1980: The East Berlin doctor Barbara was arrested after submitting an application to leave the country and subsequently transferred to a provincial hospital on the Baltic coast by the Charité . From now on she works in pediatric surgery , which is under the direction of doctor André Reiser. Reiser is assigned to Barbara by the Stasi officer Klaus Schütz. She is suspicious and extremely distant from her colleagues. On her first day at work, when Reiser drives her home, Barbara suspects that he has been assigned to her. He doesn't ask about her background and knows her address. Barbara also had to endure house searches and whole-body checks ordered by Schütz.

Barbara's professional skills impress Reiser when she questions the diagnosis of young runaway Stella and diagnoses tick-borne meningitis . Barbara takes care of Stella devotedly. The girl has fled the Torgau youth work center and is expecting a child. Stella wishes to keep the baby after the delivery and to flee to the West with it. Reiser, in turn, wins Barbara's respect when he produces a serum for the patient in a laboratory he has set up in the hospital . At the same time, like Barbara, he is devoted to the fine arts and tries to interpret them with his own interpretation of the painting Die Anatomie des Dr. Impress Tulip . He also tells her about the reason for his own transfer to the province: A young assistant doctor who was under Reiser's supervision had misused two imported incubators , as a result of which two babies became blind. The incident was hushed up, but Reiser was transferred from Eberswalde to the provincial hospital on the Baltic Sea. The Stasi also expects Reiser to deliver reports to Schütz, now about Barbara. Barbara doubts the story and asks Reiser a question about the type of incubator that Reiser does not answer.

At the same time, her lover Jörg is secretly preparing Barbara's escape to the West from Germany. Barbara receives the money to flee across the Baltic Sea. She meets with Jörg secretly in the forest and in the Rostock Interhotel . He makes her the suggestion to move to the GDR herself, which Barbara strictly rejects. He also gives her to understand that she can give up her professional career after the successful escape because he earns enough for both of them.

Meanwhile, the new patient at the clinic is the adolescent Mario, who threw himself out of the window because of a heartache. Although the first tests are positive, Reiser fears that he will have to operate on the boy's open brain. The suspicion is confirmed when Mario's friend Angie reports of his sudden coldness.

On the weekend when Barbara is planning her escape across the Baltic Sea to Denmark , events come thick and fast. Reiser has agreed on Mario's operation for Saturday evening with an external specialist; Barbara should take over the anesthesia . On the same day, she witnesses how Reiser secretly supplies Schütz's wife, who is seriously ill with cancer, with morphine . When Reiser invites Barbara to his home for dinner and gives her a copy of Ivan Turgenev's Notes of a Hunter , which contains a story about a district doctor, the two of them speak for the first time. Barbara kisses Reiser and then fled to her apartment. The injured Stella, who fled Torgau again, gets there. Barbara stays away from Mario during the operation, supplies the weakened young woman with painkillers and caffeine and drives her to the agreed location on the Baltic coast to meet the escape helper. She lets Stella take her place in a small rubber dinghy pulled by an AquaScooter . Surprisingly for Reiser - Schütz and he had found Barbara's apartment abandoned that night - she returns to the hospital in the morning, where she meets Reiser at the bedside of the freshly operated Mario.

The film ends with this shot and a fade to black .

History of origin

Barbara 2012 in an Athens art house cinema

According to director Christian Petzold, son of GDR refugees, the beginnings of the film project go back to the early 2000s when he discovered the novel Barbara by the Austrian Hermann Broch (1886–1951). This is set at the end of the 1920s and reports on a communist resistance fighter who works in a hospital and falls in love with a doctor. However, Petzold could not imagine a film adaptation of this milieu. It wasn't until 2006 that he remembered the work after he had met a doctor from Fürstenwalde , who told him about the practices that GDR doctors had to endure after having submitted an exit application. Men were put into education and later used as military doctors, while women were transferred to provincial hospitals.

For the title role, Petzold engaged the German actress Nina Hoss , with whom he had already worked in Toter Mann (2002), Wolfsburg (2003), Yella (2007) and Jerichow (2008). On the occasion of the Berlinale 2012, Hoss remarked that there was “always a dialogue about films” between her and the director, even during breaks in filming, and that both of them had developed a lot together through the films (“Because we are always curious about each other.”). For the main male role of André Reiser, the East German actor Ronald Zehrfeld , who embodied an intellectual for the first time, was hired (“At first I really struggled with the role of the doctor and asked myself: do you ever take the academic from a cattle like me? "). In preparation, they saw many films, including works by Claude Chabrol and Howard Hawks ' haben und nichthaben (1944) and Dealer of the Four Seasons (1972) by Rainer Werner Fassbinder , which Petzold said particularly impressed. "We wanted to film what is between people, what has piled up, what makes them mistrustful, or trust, repel and accept," says the director. Before the shooting began, there were extensive reading samples with all the actors in Berlin .

The film sets were created by production designer Kade Gruber two months before the start of shooting, whereby, according to Petzold, emphasis was placed on historical authenticity for each item. The actors would then have made rooms and objects their own in preparation. Filming began on August 16, 2011 and lasted until October, as Petzold wanted to capture the colors of the beginning autumn with light brown tones. Petzold himself mentioned in his “Director's Note” on Barbara that the GDR had come across as “desaturated” in the films of the last few years, without colors, wind and instead “the gray of the border crossings”. The film is designed as a love drama in the broadest sense and cameraman Hans Fromm used a relatively large number of high-resolution counter-shot shots .

Most of the filming took place in Kirchmöser , in Brandenburg an der Havel , where a hospital that had been vacant for several years, the former ENT clinic of the Brandenburg / Havel district hospital, was located. The supply lines had to be restored for the filming, and in some cases walls were removed to turn the hallway into an escape route . The remaining motifs were added. Further shooting took place in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania ( Ahrenshoop ) and at the old train station in Schneidlingen ( Saxony-Anhalt ). Most of the scenes were filmed chronologically, with the exception of the kissing scene between Barbara and Reiser. “[...] I would like to tear such a scene out of the chronology for two reasons: First, if you shoot this on the eighth day, then you have the kiss for the remaining days and as an actor you know where you are going. And secondly, if it's not good, you can do it again, ”said Petzold.

The first still images from the film by photographer Christian Schulz were shown in December 2011 as part of the double exhibition Am Set in the Deutsche Kinemathek in Berlin.


Barbara premiered on February 11, 2012 in the competition at the 62nd Berlin International Film Festival. The specialist critics largely praised Petzold's directorial work and counted this among the favorites for the main prize of the film festival.

Verena Lueken ( Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung ) praised the film for its portrayal of the state security apparatus of the GDR, against which Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's The Lives of Others seems like a “bohemian fairy tale”. She noticed "big cinema pictures" that would remind of the American film and the background noise, a "GDR soundtrack made of original sounds that makes you sit on the edge of a chair like in a thriller". She described Nina Hoss' portrayal as "so brittle, as if her soul had cracked".

Suzan Vahabzadeh ( Süddeutsche Zeitung ) described Barbara as a terrific German start and a flawless film. The constellation is somewhat reminiscent of Roland Graef's DEFA film Die Flucht (1977), the title character appears like an "undead" like in Petzold's previous films. The director sends "his characters again and again to the borders between life and death, between dream and reality, in search of redemption." As a film about the GDR, Barbara is so "great" because "an individual's attitude towards the state is actually true to a very individual question ”. Vahabzadeh also referred to the overwhelmingly beautiful landscape shots and the juxtaposition of the scenes in Barbara's shabby apartment.

Daniel Sander ( Spiegel Online ) noticed an unprecedented warmth in Petzold's works, which penetrated the highly exciting film more and more after the cold beginning. It is a "rarely coherent portrait of the GDR" that Sander conceded price opportunities. He praised the “perfectly composed” camera work by Hans Fromm and the portrayal of Nina Hoss. Petzold “artfully build an atmosphere of constant threat”.

According to Hanns-Georg Rodek ( Die Welt ), the clear and straightforward film shows the “'System Petzold' in perfection”, which is “economical” and contains “no gesture, no word, no camera movement”, and every scene is a “ own, small arc of suspense for itself ". Rodek also pointed out the background noise, which practically completely dispenses with music. At the same time, the director broke away from the “double, metaphysical levels” of the previous films, Ghosts and Yella . The film rightly received the “very best place” - the gala screening on Saturday evening of the first Berlinale weekend.

Jan Schulz-Ojala ( Der Tagesspiegel ), on the other hand, criticized the “fixed outlines” in the story, acting and dramaturgical means, which make the film smaller than ghosts or Yella and lead to a small “loss” for Petzold's cinema. “Nowhere is a dizzying puzzle that encompasses the entire film, nowhere that feeling of flying just because you - seemingly tenderly - get the ground pulled from under your feet,” says Schulz-Ojala.

Tim Schleider wrote in the Stuttgarter Zeitung : “The story that the director tells with his wonderful actors hits the audience in the here and now. That's why she interests him. This GDR story is a German film, as powerful and up-to-date as one could wish for. "

Fritz Göttler wrote in the Süddeutsche Zeitung : "Christian Petzold's film Barbara is cool, without ingratiation and hasty understanding, it is moving and hits you in the heart." 


In 2012 the film was invited to the competition for the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival, where Christian Petzold received the Silver Bear for best director . As part of the film festival, Barbara also won the Berliner Morgenpost readers' award . In the same year, supporting actress Jasna Fritzi Bauer was nominated for the German Actor Award for her portrayal of Stella . When the nominations for the German Film Prize 2012 were announced , Barbara led the field of favorite films with eight nominations (best feature film, leading actor - Ronald Zehrfeld , best director, screenplay, camera, editing, costume design, sound design), but was only awarded the film prize in Silver in the Best Fiction Film category. This was followed by nominations for the European Film Award 2012 (best film, best actress - Nina Hoss, audience award).

The foreign representation of the German film industry, German Films , selected Barbara as an official candidate for an Oscar nomination in the category Best Foreign Language Film at the end of August 2012 . In doing so, Petzold's film set itself against the seven also nominated productions Farewell to the Frogs by Ulrike Schamoni , Hannah Arendt by Margarethe von Trotta , Hotel Lux by Leander Haußmann , Warrior by David Wnendt , Guardian Angel by Til Schweiger , This Ain't California by Martin Persiel and the lost time of Anna Justice through. However, the film did not make it onto the Academy’s shortlist and did not receive an Oscar nomination.

In 2013 the film was awarded the German Film Critics' Prize 2012 in the categories of best feature film and editing.

The German Film and Media Assessment FBW in Wiesbaden awarded the film the rating particularly valuable.

Web links

Commons : Barbara (film)  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Oscar shortlist 2013 in Kurier , December 22, 2012 (accessed on December 22, 2012)
  2. Video of the Berlinale press conference , February 11, 2012 (1:00 p.m. ff .; accessed on February 13, 2012).
  3. a b Cristina Nord: “I wanted the GDR to have colors.” In: die tageszeitung , February 11, 2012, p. 47, interview with Christian Petzold.
  4. Peter Zander: “I don't have to feel at home.” In: Berliner Morgenpost , February 9, 2012, No. 39, p. 23, interview with Nina Hoss.
  5. Gunda Bartels: The high-performance player. In: Der Tagesspiegel , February 11, 2012, No. 21242, p. 21.
  6. a b Christian Petzold: Director's Note at (accessed on February 16, 2012).
  7. a b Making Of: Direction & Acting at (accessed on February 16, 2012).
  8. a b Making Of: Camera & Equipment at (accessed on February 16, 2012).
  9. Hoss and Petzold shoot "Barbara". ( Memento of December 27, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) In: dapd news agency , August 16, 2011 (accessed via LexisNexis Wirtschaft ).
  10. ^ Susanne Thon: Large station on the station. In: Mitteldeutsche Zeitung , September 3, 2011, p. 11.
  11. Alexander Cammann: Eros of the camera. In: Die Zeit , December 29, 2011, No. 1, p. 54.
  12. competition of the 62nd Berlin International Film Festival ended on 3sat .com 17 February 2012 (accessed on 18 February 2012).
  13. Peter Zander: Morgenpost readers' award goes to “Barbara”. In: Berliner Morgenpost , February 18, 2012, No. 48, p. 20.
  14. (link not available)
  15. ^ Anke Westphal: Art and humanity. In: Berliner Zeitung , February 18, 2012, p. 29.
  16. Verena Lueken: When you hear it crack, your heart breaks. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung , February 13, 2012, No. 37, p. 27.
  17. Suzan Vahabzadeh: Sleepwalker in the Wild East. In: Süddeutsche Zeitung , February 13, 2012, p. 11.
  18. Daniel Sander: Tenderly in the Zone at Spiegel Online , February 11, 2012 (accessed on February 13, 2012).
  19. ^ Hanns-Georg Rodek : Nina Hoss is locked up in her own country. from Die Welt , February 11, 2012 (accessed February 13, 2012).
  20. ^ Jan Schulz-Ojala: Refugees, foundlings. In: Der Tagesspiegel , February 12, 2012, No. 21243, p. 26.
  21. Tim Schleider: Film "Barbara" by Christian Petzold: Back then in the GDR. In: Stuttgarter Zeitung , March 7, 2012, accessed on March 7, 2012.
  22. Fritz Göttler: The observed woman. In: Süddeutsche Zeitung of March 7, 2012, p. 13
  23. Prizes from independent juries 2012 at (accessed on February 18, 2012).
  24. ^ Controversy, Record Entries, French Frontrunners As Oscar's 2012 Foreign Language Race Kicks Off Tonight. In: October 12, 2012, accessed February 22, 2019 .
  25. ^ Film: Eight German films in the Oscar selection at, August 20, 2012 (accessed August 31, 2012).
  26. ^ Prize of the German Film Critics awarded ( Memento from April 12, 2013 in the web archive ), accessed on February 14, 2012