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Meeting Gorbachev

  • Film
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
Photograph: Altitude

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Werner Herzog meets Mikhail Gorbachev in an encounter that’s missing a bit of spark.

Maverick German filmmaker Werner Herzog is full of surprises, so don’t be taken aback when his documentary about Mikhail Gorbachev, architect of glasnost and perestroika, is suddenly interrupted by a rogue posse of slugs. While tackling the collapse of the Eastern Bloc in the early ’90s, he notes in a typically dry aside how one Austrian news channel prioritised a story about beer-loving slugs over the ripping down of Hungary’s barbed-wire borders. Because hey, what’s the collapse of communism next to a bunch of pissed-up gastropods on a tear-up?

Such surreal moments are Herzog’s stock-in-trade and they’re especially welcome here. For the most part, Herzog and co-director André Singer play it straight and respectful in ‘Meeting Gorbachev’ – almost too straight. It is clear from their interviews that Herzog is in awe of Gorbachev, and he gives the former Soviet leader an easy ride. Gorbachev is 88 and his answers come slowly and rarely very illuminatingly. Which must be why the film is more of biography, told via archive footage and talking heads, than a sparky political ‘in conversation’ piece in the spirit of Errol Morris’s magisterial ‘The Fog of War’.

Thankfully, Herzog’s insight and dry wit elevate the film above mere Wiki-doc. And there is no denying that Gorbachev was a remarkable statesman, as well as a tragic figure ultimately brought down as a result of his bold, reformist ideals. He is, it’s fair to say, even more interesting than an Austrian slug. 

Dan Jolin
Written by
Dan Jolin

Release Details

  • Rated:PG
  • Release date:Friday 8 November 2019
  • Duration:90 mins

Cast and crew

  • Director:Werner Herzog, Andre Singer
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