Directors: Werner Herzog & Andre Singer
Featuring: Mikhail Gorbachev, Yuri Andropov, James Baker, Leonid Brezhnev, Konstantin Chernenko, Raisa Maximovna Gorbacheva, Miklos Nemeth, Vladimir Putin, Ronald Reagan, Horst Teltschik, Margaret Thatcher, Lech Walesa, Boris Yeltsin
I always like to see a Werner Herzog documentary at the festival and thought his last one about the internet was not really up to his standard. Even though it is about Gorbechev, it is clear who is in charge as Werner talks of being “summoned” by the subject to complete the interviews required for the documentary also the mentions of how Gorbechev has clearly done his research into the film maker and knows what sort of questions he will ask.
The very first question Werner asks is assuming that the first German Gorbechev met would have wanted to kill him. Gorbechev flips the script by saying his neighbours on his family’s farm were German. Werner Herzog insists he is not Mikhail Gorbachev’s “buddy” even though they use first names in the film.
Was a bit much Werner Herzog calling Gorbechev’s home town “God forsaken” but you would expect that sort of thing by now.
As they describe in the documentary the USSR was crumbling by the time Gorbechev finally came to power and the succession of identical funerals for former leaders shows this but I am not sure it was necessary to show all three.
There are a lot of clips of former leaders shown from the time period including Margaret Thatcher speaking on nuclear weapons. Gorbechev disagrees with her views and says she goes too far. Was a comment from the audience “Margaret Thatcher is the perfect villain in everything I have seen her in.”
Interestingly there is a sequence from another documentary, Gorbachev. After Empire released in 2001 by Vitaly Mansky. I remember watching this on SBS TV in Australia specifically his old blind auntie crying and saying “My Misha!”
The documentary tells the story Mikhail Gorbachev and how he transformed himself from a simple farm boy to the leader of one of the largest nations on earth and was loved by the people as he would go out onto the street to talk to them. Would be hard to imagine Putin doing that these days.
You can see the bandage on Gorbechev’s hand in some scenes as he had to be delivered from the hospital as he really wanted to finish the film.
An excellent documentary and hopefully it will get a wider release after it finishes the festival circuit.
Bonus Q&A with Werner Herzog at TIFF
In conversation with Werner Herzog at TIFF
Gorbachev. After Empire (2001) | Vitaly Mansky