Sitting down with those who have walked the halls of power has the potential to be fascinating…
Meeting Gorbachev is pretty much as you expect because while the chance to talk with one of the more influential world leaders in recent memory can be engaging it’s suffers from being fairly dry talking about the facts of it all.
Rising from a farm boy to become President of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev brought about changes that helped end the Cold War, toppled the USSR, enabled the reunification of Germany and transformed the world forever.
For a Werner Herzog film, Meeting Gorbachev is surprisingly straight forward and earnest. While that doesn’t make for the most outwardly exciting of films, the honest excitement and thrill that comes through with Herzog and getting to talk to the man makes the film feel a little more personal with some genuine humanistic charm.
With frequent collaborator Andre Singer who is a very solid director and producer in his own right; Werner Herzog takes us into the history of not only the man but a tumultuous time in an entire nation’s history through a series of sit down interviews, not only with Gorbachev but a variety of other subjects.
Herzog’s narration allows for a more personal feel to the material as the entire thing gets framed feeling very much like a conversation between old friends. Sure the structure of it all is a little by the numbers but where the genuine human element lies in this film is getting to watch two very interesting people sit there and kind of get to know each other. Granted there are moments where Herzog is almost paying fan service to the former world leader, but he manages to get such unvarnished reactions from the man who is ultimately speaking very plainly about what happened, how he got there, his role in history and how it all went wrong.
Gorbachev simply isn’t afraid to call it as he sees it in this film and that’s incredibly refreshing to watch from any career politician. That honest charm really does add to his overall mystique as the “Good Russian” that he was so often referred to as in the western media over the years and if anything we can tell that this was a man on the world stage who was maybe a little ahead of his time and wanted to do some good.
Ultimately, Meeting Gorbachev isn’t the kind of film that really moves the needle from a film making scale but it’s more than worth the watch to see two very savvy and self aware individuals talk about the world around them. It’s a culturally fascinating pop culture time capsule.
Playing now at TIFF Bell Lightbox.
- Release Date: 5/17/2019