(director/writer: Christian Petzold; cinematographer: Hans Fromm; editor: Bettina Böhler; music: Stefan Will; cast: Nina Hoss (Barbara Wolff), Ronald Zehrfeld (Andre Reiser), Jasna Fritzi Bauer (Stella), Mark Waschke (Jörg), Rainer Bock (Klaus); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Florian Koerner von Gustorf/Michael Weber; Adopt Films; 2012-Germany-in German with English subtitles)

Engrossing Cold War thriller and love story set in East Germany in 1980.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Engrossing Cold War thriller and love story set in East Germany in 1980 by German director Christian Petzold (“Yella”/”The State I Am In”/”Wolfsburg”). Petzold won the Best Director prize at this year’s Berlin Film Festival.

The withdrawn Dr. Barbara Wolff (Nina Hoss), under constant surveillance by the Stasi and harassed by her assigned middle-aged hostile operative Klaus (Rainer Bock), is a beautiful banished East German doctor from Berlin, with no disclosed charges, who is assigned to a hospital in the provinces and is supervised by the burly but friendly Dr. Andre Reiser (Ronald Zehrfeld). Barbara is cold with her colleagues and rebuffs Andre’s kind and romantic gestures, as her secret is that she’s planning to escape to her wealthy businessman lover (Mark Waschke) in West Germany and trusts no one. A runaway teen from the Torgau work camp, Stella (Jasna Fritzi Bauer), is treated in the hospital by Barbara and the two form a special bond. On the eve of Barbara’s escape, something happens that tests her character and she must on an impulse make a life-altering decision based on her humanitarian and heartfelt instincts.

The performances by Hoss, in her fifth film for the director, and Zehrfeld, are brilliantly subdued and sensitive, making this gripping melodrama credible and emotionally satisfying. Petzold weaves a slowly unfolding moving story that incorporates politics, duty and romance into a pic that paints a haunting look at oppression in the bleak German Democratic Republic.