"Meeting Gorbachev" has been released and it gives us an inside look into the life and career of the man who ironically brought the Soviet Union down in that, due to his policies which were supposed to save Soviet socialism, they ended up doing the opposite.
Meeting Gorbachev, Herzog’s new documentary (co-directed with André Singer), is based on three long interviews with the Soviet Union’s final leader. As a historical figure, Gorbachev is difficult to categorize.
To the generation of idealistic liberals who came of age in the United States and Europe in the late 1980s, Gorbachev was and to some extent still is revered, a figure who can plausibly be mentioned in the same breath as Nelson Mandela as an icon of peace and reconciliation.
But whereas Mandela remains a beloved figure in South Africa even after his death, today many Russians despise Gorbachev, and most hardly think of him at all.
It is perhaps not a coincidence that it would be Werner Herzog who would make this sort of character study on Mikhail Gorbachev. He lived at around the same time as the old Soviet leader and perhaps even in almost similar circumstances.
Herzog doesn’t offer a materialist or ideological analysis of the transition from Soviet socialism to anarchic neoliberalism. The story he tells is resolutely individualist, a tragedy centered on a great man. Besides Gorbachev, he offers interviews with the men (they are all men, aside from some archival footage of Margaret Thatcher) who helped end the Cold War, including Lech Wałęsa, James Baker, and George Schultz.
Overall, the story he tells goes something like this: Gorbachev, with the purest intentions, tried to reform communism and bring about world peace, but was undermined by other, more cynical men, who replaced the Soviet Union with something worse.