Germany’s official candidate for best foreign-film honours at the Oscars next year, Barbara plays out on the same turf as earlier Academy winner The Lives of Others (2006) and another TIFF 2012 entry, Shores of Hope – namely the German Democratic Republic (aka East Germany) of the 1980s, at that time one of the world’s most notorious surveillance societies. The wonderful Nina Hoss is the film’s eponymous lead, a smart, attractive, compassionate and resourceful pediatric surgeon exiled to a modest, underfunded rural hospital. She slowly and warily warms to her boss, Andre (Ronald Zehrfeld) – warily because he just may be a Stasi (secret police) agent and she already has a lover in the West who’s working up a plan to spirit her from the GDR. A spare, elegant, astute director, Christian Petzold gets top-notch performances from all his ensemble cast, but his script falls prey near the end to a predictable flourish of hokum.
At VIFF: Oct. 5, 9:15 p.m., Granville 3; Oct. 11, 3 p.m., Granville 3
At TIFF: Sept. 13, 6 p.m., Ryerson; Sept. 14, 3:45 p.m., TIFF Bell Lightbox