Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. Germany, 2012. Schramm Film Koerner & Weber, Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen, ARTE. Screenplay by Christian Petzold, collaboration with Harun Farocki. Cinematography by Hans Fromm. Produced by Anne Even, Florian Koerner von Gustorf. Music by Stefan Will. Production Design by Kade Gruber. Costume Design by Anette Guther. Film Editing by Bettina Bohler. National Board of Review Awards 2012. Toronto International Film Festival 2012.
A doctor is sent out to a remote hospital in the East German countryside, presumably as punishment for something she did in Berlin though we never find out what. Between bouts of administering medicine to the locals, most of whom are ill because of the seriously low quality of living, she herself undergoes numerous searches from local officers who are determined to find the slightest stench of capitalism on her (this is, after all, a time when luxurious chocolate found on your person could ruin your life forever). She also has a handsome western boyfriend who visits her secretly from time to time, and who is helping her plan their escape to Denmark where they will be together forever. This quiet, methodical film features strong performances and low-key direction; Christian Petzold’s commendable lack of flash takes the familiar set-up, right down to the unsurprising sacrificial third act, and makes it feel genuine by never raising emotions to a shrill or unreasonable level. It’s no masterpiece, neither is it unforgettable, but it is solid and satisfying.