The wind blows cold and hard in the East German backwater, where the title character of Barbara, a Berlin doctor in exile, finds herself. Watched over by the secret police, by nosy neighbors, by the staff at the bare-bones hospital she has been reassigned to, Barbara (an amazingly composed Nina Hoss) smokes her cigarettes and sees her patients and bicycles back and forth from her drab apartment to work.
And quietly, she plots her escape.
Christian Petzold's masterfully hushed, suspenseful thriller percolates with dread. Hoss' physician - she is smart, skilled, self-assured - moves through her days in a cocoon of solitude, waiting to hear from her lover (Mark Waschke), who is making arrangements to spirit her off to the west. She sneaks into a hotel where he is visiting to make love. They meet in the woods. They plan.