Werner Herzog says there's a "subversive message" to his new documentary Meeting Gorbachev: Talk to your geopolitical enemies.
Herzog interviewed former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev three times in a six-month span to make the new film.
He highlights Gorbachev's leadership during the reunification of Herzog's native Germany as well as the groundbreaking 1986 arms control summit with U.S. President Ronald Reagan.
The film makes no mention of current events. Russia's President Vladimir Putin is seen only once, in passing, at the 1999 funeral of Gorbachev's wife Raisa. But the 76-year-old filmmaker says Gorbachev and Reagan's top-level diplomacy was "a good example" for today.
"That's how it can happen. That's how it can be. And in a way, it's a subversive message of the film," Herzog said in an interview.
"There shouldn't be a new Cold War. And I do believe that the demonization of Russia is a big mistake of the Western media and Western politics.
"Calling Reagan and Gorbachev "the most unlikely characters," he said their meeting in Reykjavík produced something unprecedented.
"They looked beyond the horizon and they didn't come to an immediate sort of contract and agreement. But they broke the ice," he said.
"The Cold War somehow ended and they created arms reductions we have not seen in that magnitude, ever."
Herzog says the parallels to today's politics are clear: "If you consider Russia an enemy, talk to them. And if you consider North Korea an enemy and some sort of immediate threat — there was a critical situation about a year ago or so — speak to them. ... And it's a good thing, no matter if you have immediate results in the contract and the treaty right away. It doesn't really matter. I do believe that the dangerous situation is, in a way, defused."
"Meeting Gorbachev" is one of three films Herzog has been working on in the last year. He also completed a documentary about a friend, the writer Bruce Chatwin, which recently debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Later this month, he'll return to the prestigious Cannes film festival for the first time since 1999 with the Japanese-language drama Family Romance, LLC.