Directed by Christian Petzold
Cornerhouse, 6 October 2012
The great virtue of this film, set in East Germany during the Cold War, is that it eschews the trappings of a thriller and instead concentrates on character.
We are shown a woman, Barbara (played by Nina Hoss), who is intent on fleeing to the West; but at the end she decides to stay and tend to those who’ve been injured by the oppressive system. Another, a girl who has only hope, takes her safe passage. Her vocation – Barbara is a doctor – requires that she should stand at her post.
There is an interesting analysis and discussion of a painting by Rembrandt in this film. It acts as a kind of coda and is key to understanding Barbara’s integrity. She changes – gradually, imperceptibly – but she makes no compromises to the inhumanity she sees around her. Rather, she becomes more herself: a vision revealed in marble.
It’s a fine film of quiet yet brilliant effects.