Co-directors Werner Herzog and Andre Singer offer up a fascinating look into the life of Mikhail Gorbachev, the eighth and final leader of the Soviet Union in their new documentary Meeting Gorbachev. The film, which premiered last fall at the Telluride Film Festival, now has a trailer care of distributor The Orchard. Watch it here:
“Mikhail Gorbachev is burdened by history,” Herzog narrates at the opening of the trailer. This is a pretty good preface for the film given that it is an investigation into a political figure who, despite historic unrest during the Cold War, was focused in his pursuit to preserve the Soviet Union. As he fought for reform, the economy never improved after he instilled new political systems resulting in freedom of speech. Decades worth of pent up dissent erupted almost immediately and Gorbachev was at the center of it.
Meeting Gorbachev is comprised of three separate sit-down interviews between the titular subject and Herzog filmed over the span of six months. It takes a chronological look at the life and history behind the man who saw the end of the USSR. Herzog has a personal connection to Gorbachev in that the leader aided in the reunification of the filmmaker’s home country, Germany.
In an interview with IndieWire, Herzog illuminates how he feels strongly against discussing current politics, which is ironic considering he has made a film about a prominent political figure in a time when everything is considered political. “Yet this film certainly is political, but very much of it is also beyond it. It tries to look beyond politics. What I’m trying to portray also is the man, what kind of a wonderful man is he. It’s about his soul and in a way more so, I try to have a few glimpses deep into the soul of Russia.”
Herzog doesn’t believe in interviews; he believes in conversations. Just the material in this trailer has a friendly air to it as if Werner and Mikhail became buddies along the way. His final query here is fittingly not a question but simply a statement of what he desires: “I would like to hear what should be on your gravestone.” To which Gorbachev says, “‘We tried.'”
Working with Singer, his longtime producing partner who now has a directorial credit here, Herzog hopes to paint Gorbachev in a better light than the reputation that he has been given. It seems as though the leader is more respected abroad than he is back home, where he has not been in 15 years. So Herzog is capitalizing on the fact that in times like these, a composed and respected man may deserve to be heard out.
The film was tremendously well-received last year at Telluride and at the Toronto International Film Festival (where programmer Thom Powers recommended it paired with Putin’s Witnesses, which unfortunately still has no US distributor), and just recently screened at CPH:DOX. The Orchard will release Meeting Gorbachev in theaters on May 3rd.
Here’s the film’s new poster: