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Film review
Must try harder
  1. Caroline Dickinson, GP trainer
  1. Correspondence to Dr Caroline Dickinson, Caversham Group Practice, 4 Peckwater Street, London NW5 2UP, UK; caroline.dickinson{at}

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Barbara. Directed by Christian Petzold, Germany, 2012

The eponymous heroine of Barbara is a female paediatric surgeon. The film won an award for director Christian Petzold at the Berlin Film Festival and has had generally good reviews, so I was hoping that it would avoid the usual clichés. But although it was watchable and absorbing, I came away disappointed.

Image from the film Barbara

The film is set in preunification East Germany in 1980. Barbara (Nina Hoss) has been banished from a prestigious Berlin hospital to work in a small rural one as punishment for requesting to leave East Germany. We sympathise with her—the scenes of life in the East German countryside are pretty grim and her flat looks like a prison cell. She is kept an eye on by handsome young doctor Andre (Ronald Zehrfeld), who has been told to make advances towards her and to report her every movement to the Stasi. Not surprisingly, she takes an initial dislike …

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.