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Film Reviews Documentary Meeting Gorbachev defines the Russian politician’s titan legacy in an unexpected way

German director Werner Herzog in an intimate conversation with former Soviet Union head of state Mikhail Gorbachev.

Spring Films & Werner Herzog Film

  • Meeting Gorbachev
  • Directed and written by: Werner Herzog and André Singer
  • Starring: Mikhail Gorbachev, Werner Herzog, Miklós Németh, George Shultz and Horst Teltschik
  • Classification: G; 90 minutes

rating

A documentary built on the oddball German director Werner Herzog’s intimate conversations with former Soviet Union head of state Mikhail Gorbachev is strangely effective and affecting, and I’m not just whistling Chopin’s Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor, which is the famous dirge played three times in quick succession over the top of the funeral footage of the three Soviet rulers who preceded Gorbachev. The back-to-back-to-back segments of the casket business and frightfully mournful music is stone-cold Monty Python absurdity.

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An adoring Werner’s flowery questions are suffered courteously by the candid Gorbachev. At one point the filmmaker sincerely compares the Cold War-ending, Berlin Wall-breaking, nuclear-disarming statesman to a Greek god: “A real god, not an allegory.” Elsewhere, Herzog tells Gorbachev he loves him. A news clip on garden slugs happens. And we tearfully learn that the death of the former leader’s wife “aggrieved his solitude.” At the end, a dignified Gorbachev recites a poem of the I Did It My Way kind. Defining a politician’s titan legacy in a singularly unexpected way, Meeting Gorbachev meets its expectations.

Meeting Gorbachev opens May 17 in Toronto, Vancouver and Waterloo, Ont.

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