Meeting Gorbachev Parent Guide
An outstanding documentary about the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War based on interviews with the man at the center of it all.
Parent Movie Review
Few men stand at the fulcrum of history. Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, last President of the Soviet Union is one such man. From his roots in the small village of Privolnoye, to his rise through the Communist hierarchy, to his attempts to reform the USSR, his life and career literally changed the world. Through interviews between German director Werner Herzog and the retired leader (and other global figures), Meeting Gorbachev explores the life and contributions of this unusual man.
This is a fabulous documentary. Herzog seized the chance to interview his aging subject and the interviews are fascinating, focusing less on historical minutiae and more on Gorbachev’s personal impressions of what he tried to do, where he succeeded, where he failed, and why. It examines his feelings about his career, his life, and his legacy.
Meeting Gorbachev not only has value as a historical documentary: it is an even more useful resource for audiences seeking answers and alternatives to the current political conflicts roiling the world. As problems and disagreements stack up, and seemingly intractable disputes become larger and more dangerous, a calm look at what might have been humanity’s most dangerous period is uniquely helpful. How could the President of the United States and the President of the Soviet Union ever have reached an agreement about nuclear weapons? How could Germany reunify under the authoritarian grip of Soviet government? How could Gorbachev institute reforms, in the form of perestroika and glasnost, in a deeply conflicted nation?
It also prompts a significant conversation about the modern world’s continued fascination with nuclear weapons. Despite the fact that these weapons are so dangerous they brought Ronald Reagan and Gorbachev to the bargaining table to limit them, leaders today seem to believe that they can benefit from their development. Recently, the United States and Russia both withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a deal signed by Reagan and Gorbachev in 1987. Herzog’s focus on these talks and agreements demands our attention in our present political crisis.
As a teaching tool, Meeting Gorbachev is invaluable for bringing both humanity and emotion to history and for giving the era and individuals it covers a sense of immediacy that makes them more understandable and memorable. Whether you are a student, a teacher, or just a person trying to make sense of the past, this documentary should be on your list of things to watch.Directed by Werner Herzog and Andre Singer. Starring Werner Herzog, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Horst Teltschik.. Running time: 90 minutes. Theatrical release May 30, 2019. Updated June 6, 2019
Watch the trailer for Meeting Gorbachev
Rating & Content Info
Why is Meeting Gorbachev rated Not Rated? Meeting Gorbachev is rated Not Rated by the MPAA
Violence: The bodies of several Soviet leaders are shown at their funerals. There is some brief news footage of protests and riots during the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Sexual Content: None.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Some background characters are shown smoking cigarettes, as was common at the time.
Page last updated June 6, 2019
Meeting Gorbachev Parents' Guide
Gorbachev says to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the interview: “How can you feel comfortable sitting on a barrel of nuclear weapons?” How do you feel about the world’s stockpile of nuclear weapons? Does your country have nuclear weapons? Can you list which countries do? Gorbachev also says: “…We managed to get rid of intermediate range nuclear missiles.” How has that changed since this interview was conducted? What significance does the United States’ suspension of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty have in the contemporary political climate, both domestically and internationally?
When asked about the end of the Cold War, Gorbachev says: “Americans thought they won the Cold War and it went to their heads.” What do you think he means by this? Can you point to an example of American policy that stems from a sense of victory in the Cold War? Who do you think won the Cold War? Who does Gorbachev think won? How would you define victory under the circumstances of the Cold War?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
For a definitive history of the Cold War from start to finish, you can turn to John Lewis Gaddis’ The Cold War. Other informative books on the same topic by Gaddis include Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of American National Security Policy During the Cold War; What We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History; and The Cold War: A New History.
Tony Judt’s Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 provides a superb analysis of history on both sides of the Iron Curtain and is accessible to most readers.
Lenin’s Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire explains the collapse of the USSR. Author David Remnick was a journalist in Moscow during the final days of the Soviet Union and his interviews with a broad range of Russians give this account real depth. Robert Service’s The End of the Cold War also provides an in-depth analysis of the fall of this Communist superpower.
For a comprehensive biography of the man whose reforms unwittingly ended the Soviet Union, check out William Taubman’s Gorbachev: His Life and Times.
And to understand the evolution of the USSR into Putin’s Russia, read Arkady Ostrovsky’s The Invention of Russia: From Gorbachev’s Freedom to Putin’s War.
Related home video titles:
Family audiences might enjoy Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, which is to date one of the best movies about the Cold War ever made. The film draws parallels between the breakup of the Klingon Empire and the collapse of the Soviet Union and uses that comparison to discuss Western attitudes to its former foe.
Dr. Strangelove stars the incomparable Peter Sellers (in multiple roles) in a black comedy about nuclear weapons and the Cold War. The film centers around an insane general who launches a first strike nuclear attack on the USSR. The President and Joint Chiefs of Staff try to abort the attack. It’s hard to imagine humor in such a bleak scenario but the satire is so cutting it manages to be comedic…in a dark sort of way. For older teens and adults.
The Bridge of Spies goes back to the early years of the Cold War and features an American lawyer caught up in negotiating a prisoner change between the USA and the USSR. Starring Tom Hanks, this PG-13 drama is suitable for older teens and adults.
The danger of the world’s nuclear stockpiles becomes clear in Thirteen Days, a film about the Cuban Missile Crisis. Well acted (aside from Kevin Costner’s appalling Boston accent), this film is tense, terrifying, and totally fascinating. Junior high and up.