The acclaimed film-maker talks about his latest project, a documented series of conversations with Mikhail Gorbachev, and his avoidance of certain labels
Director-documentarian-deity Werner Herzog has gazed extinction in the face, fired a direction through madness, and plotted the outermost limits of human experience. For a serviceman of such prominence, sitting down with one of the most significant public figures of the twentieth century was no biggie.
” We had an point rapport ,” Herzog says of his recent rendezvous with Mikhail Gorbachev, in an interview with the Guardian during the Tribeca film festival. His new non-fiction feature Meeting Gorbachev recounts three tete-a-tetes across the span of six months between the film-maker and the final general secretary of the Communist party of the Soviet Union, in which two identities knows we exuding an intense presence immediately took a sheen to one another.
” We have same backgrounds ,” Herzog explains,” growing up after the war and knowing what it means to be hungry, having traveled very extensively, living in a very remote area without even leading ocean, a ravaged scenery. We knew of one another. Apparently, Gorbachev had received some of my cinemas and done a lot of homework on me. He had a huge stack of mentions about my job … We accompanied him chocolates without sugar from a London chocolatier .”
During the most prolific period of a long, diversified, full career- he currently has three new facets playing galas all over the globe, and what he calls an ” avalanche ” of obligations to go with them- Herzog got the chance to realize a dream. Quixotic forms accepting herculean efforts have all along been dazzled the head, from the arduous ship transport of Fitzcarraldoto the defiance of nature’s law in Grizzly Man. He’d always respected Mikhail Gorbachev from afar, and when the chance for a private meet presented itself, he couldn’t fight the opportunity to get to know a leading player of modernity a little bit more. Far from the glowering Russky of 80 s pop culture in the west, Gorbachev struck his clients as” a charming, disarming presence ,” according to Andre Singer, Herzog’s longtime collaborator and co-director on this project.
Biographical films, especially those with a focus on magnets for political controversy, tend to keep their subject at an arm’s length in the interest of maintaining some clinical separation. Not an issue for Herzog, who blows right past the feigning of nonpartisanship into an intimate hagiography. He and the Russian reformer openly regard each other with heat and affection; the true topic of the movie isn’t Gorbachev in some vacuum-clean of posterity, but Herzog’s individual known of him. Journalistic moralities don’t apply when you’re prosecute ecstatic truth, and by the director’s own statement, he’s in a class by himself.