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Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Barbara - in two Tweets, and a bit of bloggin'

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2012
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)


20 November

* Contains spoilers *







To my mind, if you've seen Others (2006)*, viewing Barbara is inextricably linked with that experience, although I would, in no way, want to underplay the fact that Nina Hoss plays the title role brilliantly, and that this fact alone serves to distinguish Barbara from the earlier film** (together with the skill and genuineness that Ronald Zehrfeld brings to playing the co-starring part of André).


To keep, for a moment, on this bungling Stasi idea, a few observations (in no particular order) :

* Barbara disappears off on the train and thence to a lakeside restaurant to get cash left for her by her lover in West Germany*** (somehow she knows that it is there, which is never - fair enough - explained)

* She does all this (and stashes the money where, I think, he has suggested) without any more than her hours-long absence being detected

* However, the Stasi seem powerless / unwilling to punish her for her more or less obvious disobedience / suspicious behaviour (even at this stage : Barbara never presents, from the first shot, as someone who will tow the line), except by the humiliation of trashing her flat when looking it over

* Despite these disruptive looks-around her accommodation, they later fail to find the cash at the time when it is hanging from a thread down the flue of her stove

* They humiliate her, at the same time, by intimate strip-searches, but to no avail, as - whatever they think that they are looking for (i.e. they do not question her in any meaningful way, let alone interrogate her) - they never find anything (if I kept looking, and not discovering, when Barbara behaves as she does, I cannot imagine saying Ho hum!)

* She sneaks away and, seemingly undetected, spends (part of) the night with her lover - I recall no visit, no sanctions


Do I need to go on, to suggest that these Stasi agents are not the brightest matches in the box? Fine for a talented and compassionate, as well as highly intelligent, doctor to outwit them, but I got the impression that Minnie Mouse could have, too...

Barbara is no Minnie at all - she is hard to get to know, easier to like, and that is the joy of the film, and of seeing André interested in (and trying to soften) her supiciousness (which is her protective cloak) and her.

That part of the film is perfectly fine, but it is the business with the rude mechanicals that doesn't convince me, and makes the film overall the weaker.


Apologies for a bit of a rushed account of this, which (unless it is something that merits no polishing) may get it later...

Actually, what it's going to get is this Twitter exchange :










End-notes

* IMDb suggests that there is a The Lives of Others (2013).

** Which is not to criticize Ulrich Mühe, but rather the limitations of his part, or Martina Gedeck, for whom, from Atomized (2000) I have a soft spot / a lot of time for her acting.

*** BRD = Bundesrepublik Deutschland, which we called FRG = Federal Republic of Germany.


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