Meeting Gorbachev

****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Meeting Gorbachev
"Herzog's film does not follow the documentary conventions - would you expect anything different from him?"

About time, you blink, a doc about Gorby, especially now in Trump County, where politics lacks any kind of moral justification and twisted untruths litter the airwaves like plastic ducks on David Attenborough’s goldfish pond.

Europe lingers in the waiting room. Washington has lost the key to the care cupboard. The Brits want to run, and then don’t, or will next week (maybe), looking like they are caught in a trap of their own making in which Arrow and Ganz try desperately to stay together and make a word that will excuse/explain everything, like plastic ducks on David Attenborough’s lily pond.

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Mikhail Gorbachev was the last leader of the USSR (Russia without the tsar). Werner Herzog is a German filmmaker who’s real name is Stipetic, from his mother’s Croatian heritage. He chose his father’s name, however, because it sounded better on the credits.

Gorbachev’s peasant family suffered during the war and Herzog was expecting a chilly response when they met but everything went well - better than well - because of Mikhail’s ease with people and Werner’s style, which comes across like a conversation between friends.

The narrative voice fills in factual details of Gorby’s life, how from nowhere he rose to the top, what happened when he got there, including an unexpected rapprochement with a certain B-picture Hollywood star and his persistent battle against nuclear weapons which continues today. The death of his wife, Raisa, from cancer was a crippling blow. “When she died my life was taken from me,” he says which was almost true, but not quite.

Herzog's film does not follow the documentary conventions - would you expect anything different from him? - which gives it a sense of intimacy and affection. Gorbachev comes across as a man of principal in a world broken by the destructive nature of political games players.

"We fought until we ran out of fight," he says. "That is how we should live."

His is the voice from a far country. Herzog treats him with respect, gently, avoiding the journalistic hard sell. It is the spirit of Raisa that fills the emptiness beyond.

Reviewed on: 06 Nov 2019
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Werner Herzog interviews Mikhail Gorbachev and captures the human side of a world leader as he recalls his relationships with Reagan and Thatcher, his beloved wife Raisa and his dashed dream of lasting change.

Director: Werner Herzog, Andre Singer

Starring: Werner Herzog, Mikhail Gorbachev

Year: 2018

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: UK, US, Germany

Festivals:

Glasgow 2019
CFF 2019

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