Meeting Gorbachev (2018) Movie Script

Let's go for it, guys.
Sound... Rolling... Cameras...
HERZOG: All rolling?
Meeting Gorbachev,
for a German,
is burdened by history.
The Nazi invasion left Russia a devastated country
with some 25 million dead.
Mikhail Gorbachev
witnessed the war
as an adolescent.
Mikhail Sergeyevich,
please allow me
to explain myself.
I'm a German,
and the first German
that you probably met
wanted to kill you.
But he was the enemy.
Months later
I still had my doubts.
Did he just want to say
something nice to me?
But during the last
of our three conversations
spanning half a year,
I understood that
everything about Gorbachev
was genuine.
In April 2018,
we met again
at the headquarters
of his foundation.
To the left,
Andre Singer,
with whom
I have a long history
of collaborations.
We had planned
to meet Mikhail Gorbachev
a month earlier,
but at that time
he was hospitalized.
Having been released
a few days prior,
he literally summoned us to conclude our conversations.
"Ah, you are trying to steal something from my pocket," he says here.
He had the great gifts
to establish an immediate
rapport with people,
here, our Russian sound man.
And, Andre,
the real bribery!
Shall we open it?Yeah, let's...
This was
a belated birthday gift,
all made by
a chocolatier in London,
without any sugar,
as one of the major
health issues
of Mikhail Gorbachev
was diabetes.
It's chocolate.
Sugar free.
It's all chocolate.
Don't take it away.
Don't take it away.
Leave it there!
And then this comes out
and each of these
has chocolates inside.
HERZOG: During transport,
the G of his name
had broken off,
which he accepted
with good humor.
He was 87 years old now.
So, you wouldn't
think this is yours?
HERZOG: He was born
in the North Caucasus
village of Privolnoe
on March 2nd 1931
as the son of peasants.
Here in the village cemetery,
all of his family
has been laid to rest.
This is the grave of his father Sergei Andreyevich,
a highly-decorated
war veteran.
In the summer of 1944,
his mother received a letter,
that Sergei had died
a hero's death at the front.
But a few days later
a letter from him arrived,
he was alive and well.
A year later,
somebody ran up
to Mikhail and cried,
"Your father is coming.
"At first,
"I didn't believe it,"
said Mikhail,
"but then I saw him.
"What we were feeling
is hard to describe.
"He grabbed me and embraced me.
"He said something that I've remembered all my life,
"we fought until
we ran out of fight,
that's how you must live."
HERZOG: His mother,
Maria Panteleevna,
was strict
and strong-minded.
She remained
illiterate all her life.
In the beginning,
she had not wanted
to marry his father.
During his childhood,
until he went to school,
he lived much of his time
with his maternal grandparents,
who treated him
with tenderness.
Here, his home village
as it looks today.
It is hard to imagine
that from such
a godforsaken place
in the middle of nowhere,
one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century emerged.
Two of his uncles
and one aunt died here
from starvation in the 1930s.
He remembers that
he would spend nights
in the stable,
sleeping next to
a new-born calf,
with a goose nearby
hatching an egg.
His family moved
from an isolated farmhouse
to this place in Privolnoe.
You were smart as a kid.
I read in your Memoirs
that you could listen
to the harvester
and strange sounds
and you would know
what was going wrong.
During their record harvest,
they spent
20 hours a day
on their machine
without stopping.
They did this for a full week.
Gorbachev's father insisted on sharing his medal with his son.
This was against the rules,
and hence,
young Mikhail only received
the second-highest medal
for Soviet farmers.
He also excelled in school.
With a medal from school
for his exceptional grades,
and the Order of
the Red Banner of Labour
for his proletarian
Mikhail was,
without any entry exam,
admitted to
the most prestigious
school of them all,
Moscow State University.
He enrolled in law school without exactly knowing why.
He was deeply provincial
and had to study hard
to catch up.
He transformed
himself into a broadly
knowledgeable man.
Soon, he excelled
in academic studies
and became a youth leader
for the entire school.
Here, one of the rare photos of him with two fellow students.
Apart from hard studies,
there was also fun,
socialist style.
Here, a satire
on the decadent
the dance of the class enemy, America.
During one of these events,
he met the love
of his life, Raisa.
Mikhail Gorbachev graduated with highest honors.
He applied to work
for the state prosecutor's
office in Moscow
but was turned down.
He was told young lawyers had to start out in the provinces.
He asked to be sent
to his homeland,
and began working
in the prosecutor's office
in Stavropol,
but soon he realized
this did not suit him.
He chose
a political career instead.
Quickly he rose in the ranks of the young Communist League,
the Komsomol.
His rise was steady.
Rather high up in the ranks,
he wanted to know
under which conditions
the poor peasants
lived and worked.
He visited every outpost,
and since most of the time
there was no car,
he would hitch a truck.
And when there was
no transportation at all,
he would travel on foot,
for days.
This was unheard of,
a Communist apparatchik
never ever came on foot.
The peasants adored him.
Gorbachev introduced
modern mechanized
methods in sheep-shearing,
which soon were
adopted throughout
the entire Soviet Union.
He would
have the honor
to hand over the flag to the most outstanding brigade.
Having attained
the rank of party boss
in the Region of Stavropol,
Gorbachev had
a colossal achievement
by opening
the Great Stavropol Canal,
a project Stalin
had tried in vain.
The Politburo, in Moscow,
including Brezhnev,
took notice of him.
Presenting the October Revolution Medal to Gorbachev,
Brezhnev, already senile,
fumbles the ceremony.
The microphone is open enough to pick up an aide whispering Gorbachev's correct name,
and Brezhnev then says,
"What was it
we started over there,"
and Gorbachev provides
the missing word, "canal."
As a consequence
of this recognition,
was called to Moscow
and appointed a Secretary
of the Central Committee.
The Soviet Union
was in full decline.
Long queues formed,
but the stores were empty.
Gorbachev describes
that errors in centralized
planning and distribution
aggravated the situation.
Rural areas
had fallen into oblivion,
peasants abandoned
their villages for the city,
which made the situation
even more dire.
Gorbachev, curious by nature,
visited countries abroad
to see why they fared better.
Canada, Great Britain,
France, Germany.
One of the countries
was Hungary,
where he met Miklos Nemeth,
the future Prime Minister
of his country.
I met Gorbachev a bit earlier.
Because he was
called up to Moscow
to be the Party Secretary
responsible for agriculture.
Now, the Hungarian economy,
that part of the economy,
the agriculture,
was quite strong
and I would say
even effective.
So, Hungary was able
to produce food and meat,
and so on,
for 17 to 18 million people.
The countryside
was ten million. Mmm?
So our shelves
in the shops were full.
So, I escorted him twice to the countryside in a car.
I immediately realized that this man is a new brush.
Open minded, straightforward,
asking very good questions.
And, not focusing
on the gifts,
or whatever
the local bosses offered him.
You know,
previous Soviet bosses
arrived to Budapest,
and there were rumors,
backed by facts,
that the Party bosses
always requested
six sets of suits for hunting,
for whatever,
for social reasons,
and the Hungarian tailors
worked overnight
for two-three days.
For instance,
my wife's father was part
of this tailors' group,
for Brezhnev.
Because Gorbachev
did not ask for anything.
He did not drink,
no alcohol.
He was always
focusing on business.
He wanted to understand
why Hungary was capable
and able to produce
such a great amount
of food, meat
and agricultural products.
So, I thought immediately,
"If this is a first step
in the process
"of eliminating
the old guard in Moscow,
"there might be a chance
for us to introduce
our reforms further on."
The General Secretary
of the Hungarian
Communist Party,
in a group of people
around him,
publicly denounced him,
and saying that this man
will be digging up
the grave for our system.
During the May Parade, 1982,
Gorbachev had
already been appointed
as a full member
of the Politburo.
He was able to take
his place on the balcony
among very old men.
Brezhnev had been Secretary General for 17 years.
He was barely
able to lift his hand.
Within a few months,
he would be
the first one to die.
As customary
in such occasions,
his body was laid out
on display for his family,
state guests and the public.
On November 15, 1982,
at Brezhnev's funeral,
Andropov had already been
voted in as the new leader.
From early on,
Andropov had been
Gorbachev's mentor.
He was the one who,
with foresight,
advised him
to move beyond agriculture
and make himself knowledgeable in other fields,
like economy
and foreign policy.
HERZOG: Only a year
and three months later,
he was dead.
Like all Soviet leaders,
he was buried
at the Kremlin wall.
Who would be the next leader?
The world would know
by who was first in line
to receive the condolences,
it was Chernenko.
Gromyko, the perennial Foreign Minister was bypassed.
Chernenko at this time
was already terminally ill.
Only seldom he would leave the hospital.
For the public, his hospital room was rigged up as a fake polling station,
where he would cast his ballot.
Watch the hand at his waist.
An aide behind him discreetly kept him upright.
This bizarre ceremony
required him standing up
in a suit.
Fake working sessions
were also staged
to make believe
he was running the country.
He lasted just 13 months
and then he, too, died.
This time, Gorbachev
led the condolences...
Chernenko joined
his predecessors
at the Kremlin wall.
Gorbachev, chosen as the youngest leader in Soviet history,
received the world's
heads of state.
Bush, Sr., among them,
would become
one of the most
important players
in his future political life.
And then,
Margaret Thatcher,
who had recognized long ago Gorbachev's extraordinary political talents.
Helmut Kohl was there as well.
Sizing up the crowd
and the task ahead,
he seems to hesitate.
First, according to ritual,
he praises the achievements
of Chernenko,
the last of the fossils.
Gorbachev, however,
knew he had to start fundamental changes immediately.
Unlike previous leaders,
he immediately set out
to listen and speak
directly to the people.
Gorbachev describes
the social and economic
decline of this time,
"Finances were in disarray,
"there was a shortage
of foodstuff
and building materials,
"there was bribery
and the black market.
"There were mountains
of uninstalled equipment,
"machines were carelessly
assembled and shipped,
with parts missing.
"Railway trucks loaded
with goods were abandoned
at line ends,
"subject to spoilage
and pilferage.
"Nothing worked anymore.
"A complete restructuring,
called perestroika,
was essential."
What, uh, you as,
in your early years
had to do was
completely innovative
and nobody knew
where it was going to lead you.
It was to such, um, extent
that one of
your closest advisers,
once famously said,
we were in a situation,
or you were in a situation
where we were like
blind people
handing a mirror
over to the deaf
in exchange for a balalaika.
So, it was very
unknown terrain for everybody.
And for you including.
HERZOG: Leaders
around the world
immediately realized
that this was new in style,
and more so in substance.
I like Mr. Gorbachev.
We can do business together.
We both believe
in our own political systems.
He firmly believes in his,
I firmly believe in mine.
We are never going
to change one another.
So, that is not in doubt.
I think we both believe
that they are the more likely
to succeed,
if we can build up
confidence in one another
and trust in one another
about each other's approach.
When we took office...
The Cold War was
as cold as it could get.
The Soviets
had invaded Afghanistan.
President Carter
cut off everything.
no athletes to the Olympics,
no meetings with Gromyko,
no nothing.
So, at the funeral
of Chernenko,
Gorbachev became
Secretary General.
And he was fresh as a daisy.
So, you could really
converse with him.
He was obviously
very well-informed
and very smart.
And, so,
I said to our group afterwards,
"This is like no other
Soviet leader we've dealt with.
"He's very, very able,
he's tough,
"but at least
you can converse with him."
Well, there was a big debate in the Reagan administration
between the people
at the Defense Department
and the CIA
thought the Soviet Union
could never change.
And me and President Reagan
and we thought they could.
Other people,
like in Poland,
welcomed the change with more sinister reasoning.
Already several years before,
Poland had,
led by their labour leader,
Lech Walesa,
challenged the system.
HERZOG: The second pillar
of Gorbachev's reforms
was glasnost,
making politics
transparent for the people.
This and Perestroika
would eventually
cause an avalanche
that would sweep away
the entire system.
On April 26, 1986,
nuclear reactor no. 4
exploded at Chernobyl.
The consequences
were enormous,
not only
for the local population,
but also for Europe.
In Gorbachev's political life,
this was a key moment,
a marker.
Now, there had to be
fundamental changes,
no matter what.
HERZOG: Can I ask
about Chernobyl?
Because interesting
is that, for you,
Mikhail Sergeivich,
this was a borderline,
the world before Chernobyl,
the world after Chernobyl.
There was rampant
incompetence in the system,
and that there was
cover-ups on all levels
and a self-destructive
secrecy at the very top
of the political
So, apparently,
Chernobyl was for you
the borderline
where you understood
this is a time
when we have to change
our political culture.
I remember having read
that even the President
of the Academy of Sciences
here in Russia declared,
"Oh, yeah,
it's just a little thing.
"You drink a few, uh,
a little bit of vodka
and sleep it off."
That was your information
at the time.
I'm quite aware...
Gorbachev then offered
to meet Reagan anywhere,
even Hiroshima, to agree
to ban nuclear testing,
despite the fact
that leaders
like Margaret Thatcher
were strongly opposed.
I told him that
I didn't think you could
disinvent nuclear weapons.
That nuclear weapons
had been the best
deterrent to war
the world had ever known,
and that if you
took them right down,
then you're at risk
of a conventional
and chemical war,
and if ever you put...
Enhanced that risk,
then the moment
that war started
it would be more terrible,
and it would be won
by the first person
to get nuclear weapons.
HERZOG: The historical meeting did not take place in Hiroshima,
but halfway
for Reagan and Gorbachev
in Iceland.
It was only a few months
after Chernobyl.
The meeting place,
a private home in Reykjavik,
the Hofdi House.
To everyone's surprise,
Gorbachev and Reagan personally connected very well.
Although no final
agreement was signed,
this was a breakthrough.
The full abolition
of nuclear weapons
was discussed,
but America would not give up ambitions to weaponize space.
For this moment, things remained inconclusive.
No treaty right away.
But this handshake
was seen by the world
as momentous.
Hofdi House now,
more than three decades later.
We met tourists
from around the world,
here, a group from Norway.
Father and son
re-enact the iconic pose.
They even check
the precise position
of the hands,
studying a photo
stored on their cellphone.
What was planted here
had led to historical treaties of nuclear arms reduction.
Right away,
and the Soviet Union
interpreted the meeting
George Shultz,
the Secretary of State,
was deeply skeptical.
So, in the end,
we are deeply disappointed
at this outcome.
The basic achievements
of Reykjavik were,
number one,
all of the backup,
the material
that led to the INF Treaty
and the START Treaty,
were all worked out
at Reykjavik.
But I think beyond that
these two men,
Reagan and Gorbachev,
they sort of clicked.
And, I mean,
they went back and forth
and all,
but they came
to know each other,
respect each other.
I'm puzzled about
what makes atomic weapons
so persistent.
They're so dangerous
they can wipe out the
human race in a few hours,
and everybody
wants to get rid of it,
and we can't.
How do we explain this?
What is the nature
of these weapons systems?
Yes, and it's your work...
He's absolutely right.
He looked
with appalling horror
at the fact that
we'e now approaching
a nuclear arms race.
So do I.
I think it's terrible.
I mean,
we had every reason
to believe we were over that.
It's not just
the U.S. and Russia,
but nuclear weapons
are proliferating,
and we have to get back...
Back in the Gorbachev days,
we were...
On both sides we knew
these weapons
are terribly dangerous things.
And we reduced them
I think by about 30%
of what they were then,
so it was a huge amount.
Whether or not
people will do
the things necessary,
I don't know,
but we have to get back to
having reasonable discussions
with Russia,
and probably that takes
some sort of jolt
for Mr. Putin to realize
that the hostility is not good
and that he'd be much
better off with a more
open relationship with the U.S.
Of course, uh, Cold War
is an abnormal form
of international relations,
and it is fraught
with military risks.
But at the moment the mood,
the international mood
is coming back to Cold War.
HERZOG: His quest for democracy and a new balance in the world
made him phenomenally popular in the West.
HERZOG: America made him their mascot, the good Soviet!
His popularity rose
even higher
when he withdrew
all Soviet troops
from Afghanistan
after ten years
of military occupation.
He supported the American led coalition during the first Gulf War.
HERZOG: I was there with my camera after Saddam Hussein's troops
had set all of Kuwait on fire.
Gorbachev's support
delighted America.
I know that the way
the Soviet Union
cooperated with
the United States of America
in their approach
to Saddam Hussein's
unprovoked aggression
against Kuwait
was the clearest indication
up to that time that
the Cold War was over.
The global dream was big,
but the forces Gorbachev
had unleashed
triggered independence
in practically all corners
of the Soviet Bloc.
Gorbachev understood, unlike earlier Soviet leaders,
that this could not
be stopped by harsh laws
or tanks rolling in.
HERZOG: In the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia,
people formed a human chain
stretching 600 km,
all three countries connected in a symbolic quest for independence,
almost half of the population took part.
HERZOG: In East Germany,
people met in defiance
against their regime
that falsely acted
in the name of the people,
the masses.
But each Monday,
hundreds of thousands
"We are the people."
HERZOG: These chants
resounded in other countries
of the Eastern Bloc.
After 40 years
of one-party system,
after 40 years of failures,
definitely the Hungarian people
and society
is going to vote us out
of the power.
What will you be doing
with your troops
on the soil of Hungary?
And by that time
I knew that they stationed
a couple of nuclear warheads
targeting Italy and France, including Venice, for instance.
At that moment he grabbed
the arms of his chair
and told me quite clearly,
"Until I am sitting
in this chair
"there will be
no repetition '56."
HERZOG: That year
with brutal force
Soviet tanks suppressed
the uprising of
the Hungarian people.
Three decades later,
Miklos Nemeth
cautiously started dismantling the barbed wire
on the Hungarian border
with the West.
And end of March
they started to roll down
the barbed wire
for three and a half
kilometer long.
Because I wanted to test
the reaction of
the Communist countries,
but mainly
the reaction of Moscow.
There was no knocking on my door
by the Soviet ambassador
asking me that
what are you doing?
No ring on the hotline
from Moscow.
So we planned the next step.
And Alois Mock,
the that time
Foreign Minister of Austria
called up my Foreign Minister
that "Why don't we make
"a meeting on both sides
of the border
"and inviting
the international press?"
And in front of them
we can cut the barbed wire
and that will be covered
in the press worldwide.
So for 200 meters longer
we had to rebuild
the barbed wire,
making it possible
for the press
and for the two
Foreign Ministers
to cut the barbed wire.
HERZOG: Visibly for
the entire world,
the Iron Curtain
started to be lifted.
However Austrian
evening news was clueless
about the magnitude
of the event.
HERZOG: Their lead story
was about slugs.
The anchor woman
gives gardeners a tip
to pour some beer into a jar
and leave it overnight.
This would attract
the slugs, lovers of beer.
And if you were lucky,
you might trap
quite a number of them,
up to 70 or 80.
And now she comes to
the miscellaneous news
of the day,
the cutting
of the border fence.
It took the world some time
to grasp the significance
of this event.
Today, the Iron Curtain
remains only in the form
of souvenirs.
Next came the fall
of the Berlin Wall...
This was the biggest
of all symbols
but in practical terms
it meant
that millions of East Germans were suddenly free.
Even more than with the human chain in the Baltics
this was not negotiated
by politicians.
HERZOG: It was an overwhelming manifestation
of human longing
for freedom and unity.
There seems to be a sense
for the right moment...
Glasnost, Perestroika
had its right moment.
A long evolution, um,
leading to this,
a long evolution leading
to the German Reunification.
The Ancient Greek
actually had even a god
for the right moment, Kairos.
This God was a real god,
not just an allegory.
And, I have the feeling
when Kohl arrived
with his ten points
of Reunification,
everybody was
somehow surprised
and everybody...
You, Mr President
and Helmut Kohl,
understood the significance
of the moment.
HERZOG: I did not know that,
I have to...
Let me apologize
for this crazy remark!
Yes... Okay,
but you had to
overcome this...
HERZOG: Mikhail Gorbachev knew that I had walked on foot
around my own country,
It was my personal quest,
because the idea
of reunification had
been abandoned by so many.
The former Chancellor
Willy Brandt
and most of his party.
Gunter Grass,
the Nobel laureate writer,
Margaret Thatcher in Britain,
Mitterrand in France
and many others.
But here were two men
who would make it happen.
I think the overwhelming
majority of Germans
is deeply grateful
to the achievement,
the extraordinary, um,
efforts and role
that the President played
in the German reunification.
HERZOG: This absolutely
overwhelming approval
and liking for you
personally, we love you.
And I love you in particular
because reunification
for me was important.
You said something
very important, which...
I find significant.
"Who comes late in politics
will be punished by life."
And that's
a very deep insight.
So, um,
do you think that
dissolving of the Soviet Union
was inevitable,
or did this event,
um, somehow
speed up in a way that
nobody could
stop it anymore?
And you are speaking
of Boris Yeltsin,
but you are also speaking
of the putschists,
of the coup d'etat plotters.
So, from both sides,
there was, uh,
In August 1991,
whilst Gorbachev and his family were on vacation in the Crimea,
a coup d'etat took place.
Hardline politicians,
their supporters in the KGB
and the military rolled tanks into the streets of Moscow
and declared
a state of emergency.
HERZOG: Gorbachev
was almost completely
cut off from communications
but he observed naval vessels zeroing in on him.
He secretly recorded
a video he intended
to smuggle out.
HERZOG: The putsch
was rejected by the people.
They stood up to the tanks,
forcing their commanders
to retreat.
It was the people
who seized the tanks.
Boris Yeltsin,
at that time
the President of Russia,
sensed his chance.
HERZOG: He did not want to miss this moment in history
and climbed a tank himself.
He is regarded
as the savior of democracy.
HERZOG: Gorbachev,
safe by now,
returned to Moscow...
Returned to what?
The Soviet Union
had begun to unravel.
The Baltic States
and Georgia had already
declared independence.
The center itself
became centrifugal.
Yeltsin wanted even Russia,
the heart of the USSR,
to secede.
HERZOG: Yeltsin had the Russian Parliament abolish the Communist Party,
some ten million
members strong.
HERZOG: But this is
not the real solution,
in politics ever, but...
HERZOG: History accelerated.
On December 8, 1991,
there was a secret meeting in Belarus without Gorbachev.
Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus agreed upon a blueprint
to dissolve the Soviet Union.
The table for Yeltsin was set.
Less than two weeks later,
in Alma-Ata in Kazakhstan,
all of the remaining members
of the old Soviet Union
followed suit.
It was the 21st
of December 1991.
The dynamics of collapse
had become irreversible.
immediately resigned.
This is what the end
of an entire era
spanning most of
the 20th Century looks like.
HERZOG: Television
tried hard to turn this
into a TV spectacle.
Network executives
tried to persuade him
to sign his resignation
in front of the cameras,
and then the main camera
would zero in on his face.
maintaining his dignity
to the end, refuses.
He signs before
the official camera
is switched on.
Mikhail Sergeyevich,
the end of the Soviet Union
was a tragedy
for so many people.
But it must have been
a tragedy for you personally.
Can you explain what
it meant for you personally?
HERZOG: And how do you feel,
is there pain inside of you?
HERZOG: Mikhail Gorbachev
is a deeply lonesome man,
in particular as
he's considered a traitor
among many Russians.
The early death
of his wife Raisa
has aggravated his solitude.
She was his greatest support, she meant everything to him.
HERZOG: Oh yeah,
so you were lucky!
HERZOG: Unlike other wives
of former Soviet leaders,
she was always with him,
in the corridors of power
in the Kremlin,
on the streets of Moscow,
and on the international stage.
More so, she was
his most trusted confidante.
His marriage
was profoundly happy.
HERZOG: Raisa and Mikhail
had a daughter
and two granddaughters,
seen here during
an official photo session.
Do you remember
her voice, her laughter?
Her smell, the perfume?
HERZOG: How much
do you miss her?
I would like to share
from the President about
how does he see his legacy
in world history?
What should be
on your gravestone?
I'm asking God for two years,
just for two years.
And providence...
Providence will give him
400 years for his voice
to live on.