The 17th Annual Berlin & Beyond Film Festival opened Thursday night at the Castro Theatre. Actor Mario Adorf, who receives a tribute at this year's festival, was interviewed on the red carpet before the show. He has a magnificent head of white hair. The opening night film was Christian Petzold's Barbara, a taut historical drama about escaping the GDR. It is Germany's entry for next year's foreign film Oscar. The packed audience listened to introductory speeches from Festival President Sabine Erlenwein, Festival Director Sophoan Sorn, & Jaimey Fisher of UC Davis, who told us that the film is Petzold's response to the 2006 Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others). The director wanted to show a more colorful GDR.
The storytelling in Barbara is meticulously efficient. There are no inessential details. The atmosphere is so tense that the audience jumped when a character accidently shattered a coffee cup. The film's title character is a doctor, recently released from prison, presumably for attempting to flee the country. She is assigned to a provincial hospital where she compassionately goes about her job & nervously engineers her escape, while the Stasi keep her on a tight leash. Despite the dread situation, the film ends as a love story. The festival audience was patient & attentive throughout.
The Castro Theatre organ was played before the screening. As 3 young women removed the speaker's podium after the introductions, the woman next to me commented that these were the best-dressed stagehands she'd ever seen.
Director: Christian Petzold
Germany (2012), 90 min. (35mm film projection)
Berlin & Beyond Film Festival 2012
Thursday, September 27, 7:00 pm