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Meeting Gorbachev

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United Kingdom, United States, Germany · 2019
1h 30m
Director Werner Herzog, André Singer
Starring Mikhail Gorbachev, Werner Herzog, Miklós Németh, Lech Wałęsa
Genre Documentary

Rising from humble beginnings as a farm boy to become President of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev brought about changes that helped end the Cold War, toppled the USSR, and enabled the reunification of Germany, reshaping the modern political landscape and transforming the world forever.

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The moment when things clicked into place for me was when Herzog, in his trademark Bavarian deadpan, read a quotation from Alexander Yakovlev, one of Gorbachev’s key advisers during perestroika: “It was as if we were blind men trying to trade a mirror to deaf people in exchange for a balalaika”—a Herzogian image if there ever was one.


The New York Times by Ben Kenigsberg

But if Meeting Gorbachev finds its subject mostly staying on a pro-peace, antinuclear message — and it’s a script that’s hard to argue with — Herzog shapes the film into a study in how world events often come down to quirks of character and circumstance.


IndieWire by David Ehrlich

Not since Klaus Kinski has Herzog aimed his camera at such an uncontrollable subject, and that includes the erupting peaks of “Into the Volcano” and the radioactive crocodiles in “The Cave of Forgotten Dreams.”


Variety by Jessica Kiang

We might have hoped for a more sparky encounter, but Meeting Gorbachev, though consistently engaging, is less a fireworks display than a fireside chat, and so feels curiously like an opportunity missed.


The Playlist by Jordan Ruimy

All thanks to Herzog’s keen eye at having a continuous fluid flow to the story and his subject’s willingness to lay bare in front of an audience, this is one of the most important documentaries of the year because it still feels fresh and relevant to our times.


The A.V. Club by Mike D'Angelo

The movie finally achieves some belated emotional power when it addresses, in its final minutes, Gorbachev’s beloved wife, Raisa, who died of leukemia in 1999. It does so, however, via clips from an entirely different documentary, Vitaly Mansky’s "Gorbachev: After Empire" (2001). Why not just watch that film, since Meeting Gorbachev never so much as mentions any event that’s happened since?


The Hollywood Reporter by Stephen Farber

Herzog’s film may not be the final word on Gorbachev, but it is affectionate and candid and leaves audiences in a melancholy mood about the sometimes short-lived nature of reform.

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