Meeting Gorbachev – Film Review
Directors: Werner Herzog, André Singer (as Andre Singer)
Writer: Werner Herzog
Stars: Yuri Andropov, James Baker, Leonid Brezhnev
Mikhail Gorbachev is now 88 years old. He resigned from office in 1991 and has seemingly lived a quiet life in the intervening years. This documentary by Werner Herzog and Andre Singer gives an impression of Gorbachev as a man, while also discussing the history of his period in office. Herzog met Gorbachev on three occasions and discussed a wide range of topics, from the talks to reduce nuclear weapons, the reunification of Germany, perestroika, glasnost and also the dissolution of the USSR.
Gorbachev was born in Privolnoye, Stavropol Krai to a peasant family. The documentary gives us an impression of the area where he grew up and it is quite a bleak location. Gorbachev had no serious connections and made it to the top through his hard work and intelligence. In one sense, it is a rags to riches tale but history may not be so kind to the man who some view as a traitor to his own country. Gorbachev served in office between 1985 and 1991 and this period is the main focus of the work.
Herzog seems to be quite a fan of Gorbachev and the reforms he achieved, in particular, his involvement in the reunification of Germany. The documentary takes a positive slant on his life and work and there are very few dissenting voices. What the documentary delivers is a good overview of the period and its many changes. If you lived through these changes, it will be another chance to see the faces that used to populate the current affairs programmes. If you didn’t live through it, it’s a potted history of Eastern Europe’s recent past. It is fascinating to hear Gorbachev speak passionately on so many topics. He seems an erudite and educated man. It’s a pity a few of our more recent generation of politicians are not cut from the same cloth.