Werner Herzog, at the brisk age of 76, is considered too many (specifically cinephiles) as a mass influence and personal favorite auteur. His soothing narration, and arbitrary direction, has created a fandom of his audacious work too many international viewers. His films ranges from topics such as Nosferatu, to a documentary about one man’s passionate relationship with a Grizzly Bear. It’s safe to say, that with each passing film, it’s difficult to predict what he’s planning to create next. With Meeting Gorbachev, his latest passion project, which can be best described as a love-letter to a tragic political figure, is an ordinarily-told documentary about an extraordinary cultural figure.
Utilizing archival footage, and interviews, Meeting Gorbachev tackles the life and political influence of Mikhail Gorbachev, who was the eighth and final leader of the Soviet Union. The film most importantly discusses the morality and go-for social change of Gorbachev’s decision making, where his short lived, but game-changing leadership-methods changed the world forever, with the eventual demise of the Nuclear Arms race. Without him, our current state of living, would be altered forever, for the worst. It’s almost semi-disappointing that the film never reaches the heights of Mikhail’s career-defining victories and downfalls. His life, his influence, and his achievements arguably deserved better from Herzog’s perspective.
Yet the most underwhelming part of the film, isn’t necessarily the lack of creative direction. It’s more-so Herzog’s cinematic presence. In the majority of Werner’s work, we usually receive a darkly comedic and sardonic approach at an unusual, enlightening subject. With Meeting Gorbachev, while there were a few occasional moments of comedic relief, including one particular sequence involving death within rulers of the USSR, there isn’t enough presence in terms of Herzog’s signature style, to consider Meeting Gorbachev as one of his best works. It certainly had potential, based on it’s tricky themes relating to the cold war. It’s more so the lack of risks which will certainly underwhelm audience members who are already familiar with the story of the downfall of the Soviet Union, who expect something a little more invigorating from this acclaimed documentarian.
While far from Herzog’s finest work, Meeting Gorbachev is still an intriguing documentary with an emotionally powerful subject at its core. Through it’s effective nature, and iconic Herzog narration, there’s not much to hate or even dislike about Meeting Gorbachev. The film, while not all that cinematic, can be best watched in a television setting. Pay attention to the History Channel in the upcoming years. This is one that you shouldn’t miss from the comfort of your home, especially if it’s on cable!
Meeting Gorbachev is Now Playing in Select Cinemas Nationwide