Bobby Fischer Against the World

Film, Documentaries
3 out of 5 stars
Bobby Fischer, right, in Bobby Fischer Against the World
Bobby Fischer, right, in Bobby Fischer Against the World

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars
The term ‘tortured genius’ hardly does justice to this key cultural figure of the Cold War era, who brought chess to the forefront of America’s popular imagination, only to crash and burn in later years, corroded by mental-health issues. As this archive-rich doc suggests, however, the singular sensibility which made Brooklyn-born Bobby Fischer a phenomenon on the chess board may also have been a factor in his decline after the 1972 world championship face-off against Russian title-holder Boris Spassky made him one of the most famous people on the planet.

Liz Garbus’s film scores few points for originality of form, delivering the Errol Morris-style direct interviews (Henry Kissinger, latter-day chess giant Garry Kasparov) and sub-Philip Glass score that have now become the default setting for inspiration-deficient doc-makers. The political context of the Détente years is perfunctorily sketched in, nor do we get a firm grip on just what made Fischer’s individual playing style so difficult to resist. That said, there’s a sense in which the pictures really do tell most of the story, effectively contrasting the innocent chess-obsessed geek seen in early US TV footage with the distressing images of the older man gripped by private demons. We also relive the remarkable gamesmanship and strategy which unfolded around the Reykjavik-hosted world title bout – amazing to see the public in Times Square gripped as the latest chess reports flash up! Overall, the film lacks that precise hook of exactly why it’s worth telling this story now, but it remains a fascinating story nonetheless.



Release details

Release date:
Friday July 15 2011
93 mins

Cast and crew

Liz Garbus
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