Legendary German filmmaker Werner Herzog often speaks to the grand, existential power and themes he observes in everything from the forces of nature, ancient cave paintings and the digital world itself in his recent documentaries. He observed similar enormity when he met Mikhail Gorbachev, the last president of the Soviet Union and a titan in 20th century politics.
“[He has] an existential solitude that is deeper than anything I have seen in my life,” Herzog told TheWrap at the Toronto International Film Festival. “Of course in a way he’s a mascot of the West. But at the same time, in his own country, by many, he’s seen as a traitor who dissolved the Soviet Union, which he didn’t do.”
Herzog’s latest documentary is “Meeting Gorbachev,” in which he interviewed the Russian politician across three conversations about his life and his work since the fall of the Soviet Union. Herzog has said that he approached the conversations not as a journalist, but as “a poet.”
“You cannot face one man of such monumental importance of politics in the 20th Century without being well prepared,” Herzog said. “Otherwise, it was not a journalistic encounter. I had no paper, no catalog of questions. I just engaged in conversation, and we liked each other from very early on.”
Herzog said he formed a kinship with Gorbachev based on their experiences walking by foot cross country to make a statement. And it’s this bond he formed that allowed him to finish the film after Gorbachev grew ill and wound up in the hospital.
“We only had two conversations scheduled, but then all of a sudden he literally summoned me back,” he said. “We must conclude, we must celebrate. We have to do some more.”
Watch TheWrap’s interview with Herzog above.
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