Werner Herzog on the Personal and Political 'Tragedy' of 'Meeting Gorbachev'

By Bresge, Adina | The Canadian Press, May 16, 2019 | Go to article overview

Werner Herzog on the Personal and Political 'Tragedy' of 'Meeting Gorbachev'


Bresge, Adina, The Canadian Press


Herzog on the 'tragedy' of 'Meeting Gorbachev'

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TORONTO - For German filmmaker Werner Herzog, the rise and fall of former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev represents not only a personal tragedy, but a political failure of global proportions.

Herzog's new documentary, "Meeting Gorbachev," chronicles the Communist leader's efforts to open the Soviet Union to the outside world, which set the stage for the fall of the Iron Curtain.

But Herzog fears Gorbachev's promise of a "peace zone" extending from Vancouver to Vladivostok has been squandered as renewed hostilities between Russia and the West raise the spectre of the Cold War.

"What was interesting to me is ... the dynamics that rule international relationships beyond Gorbachev," Herzog said in an interview with "Meeting Gorbachev" co-director Andre Singer at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall.

"The feeling is always present in the conversations with Gorbachev: How many chances have we missed ever since?"

Over a six-month period, Herzog conducted three interviews with Gorbachev, reflecting on his political trajectory from party apparatchik to trailblazing reformer and, ultimately, scapegoat for the collapse of the Soviet Union.

With his signature Bavarian bravura, Herzog paints an unabashedly fawning portrait of his subject, at one point outright telling Gorbachev "I love you" for his leadership during the reunification of Germany.

This praise is echoed by a host of international dignitaries in the film who say Gorbachev's diplomatic touch was instrumental to forging a nuclear disarmament deal with former U.S. president Ronald Reagan.

Speaking to The Canadian Press, Herzog draws a parallel between Gorbachev and Reagan's "improbable" rapport at the 1986 Reykjavik summit and the "even more improbable" top-level meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U. …

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