Last night the death of Mikhail Gorbachev, one of the most important and transcendental political figures in history. Two of the most important events that we have experienced in the last 35 years were the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union, and both are a consequence of the opening policies of the Russian leader.
Both perestroika and glasnost (or transparency) initiated a paradigm shift for the Soviet nation. Mikhail’s determination, despite not being the first choice to start this reformism (Yuri Andropov was going to start it but he died a few months after being sworn in as Head of State), is part of what makes him an ideal protagonist for a film by Werner Herzog. And so he did in the documentary ‘Meeting Gorbachev‘.
In search of a dream
This documentary, which we can see through Filmin, was made from the three recorded meetings that the director held with the former Russian leader. Co-directed together with André Singer, Herzog try to make a story that explains the transformation of the Soviet Union through its most important political figure.
Also, through various house brand details, it tries to capture Gorbachev as one of the subjects who usually star in his filmsmostly men obsessed and marked by the unbearable weight of their dreams.
The first of his interactions that we see on screen undoubtedly seeks to lead him to that terrain, where the German filmmaker introduces himself highlighting his nationality and saying “probably the first German you saw tried to kill you” alluding to World War II and also looking for part of Sorry. But Mikhail quickly cuts that dash line talking about a friendly German couple who sold sweets in their hometown.
Herzog quickly redirects, seeing that he cannot pull the tortured portrait, and tries to get as close to his interviewee as possible. The bitter irony of the German is set aside to make a more moving and tender approach, which falls heavily into hagiography but does so with intent. The review of his more than 80 years of life and his transcendental political trajectory is carried out in a genuine way, leaving the protagonist to narrate in a lucid way and giving a lot of space for reflection.
‘Meeting Gorbachev’: tender and genuine hagiography
The director uses this close position very well to win over the interviewee, also getting us to connect with him, and also resorts to many of his usual tricks in his documentaries. His captivating narrative He takes us through the history of the Union, the Cold War, the paradigm shift, and his clever use of archive images manages to explain everything effectively without falling into the cheesy history lesson.
In the final bars, Herzog manages to really move the politician and the viewer, especially when he carefully touches the personal through his wife. It is not something that results in emotional exploitation, but rather one that fits well with the previous work that manages to humanize Gorbachev well, making this documentary piece a delicious experience that never lets go of your hand in its 90-minute duration. There are probably few tributes to the figure of the Russian leader as appropriate as this one.