Movie Review XVII

by zenquaker

Bobby Fischer Against the World

Bobby Fischer was a troubled Chess genius, and this move follows him through the stages of his life: his difficult childhood, his meteoric rise as a Chess prodigy, his star status as a Cold War icon and world champion, his reclusive decline, and his eventual status as a wanted fugitive.

This is one of those documentaries where the story is already written. It’s not a broad topic where the film has a lot of latitude in choosing his focus. It becomes much more about how the story is presented than what the story is, and Liz Garbus does a good job. She does a good job of balancing the story [+]. She interviews people who were friends of Fischer’s growing up, but at the same time she doesn’t shy away from showing raw footage of Fischer spewing anti-Semitic hate. Garbus also finds a lot of good material [+], from old footage of Fischer on I’ve Got a Secret to material on his sister and mother. His mother, by the way, had an 800 page FBI file for being a hard core socialist. It’s a lot of the material about his childhood that I found most fascinating, and I think gave a fuller picture of his life. She also had a lot of interesting interviews [+], from people who grew up playing Chess with Fischer, to Garry Kasparov who is Fischer’s main competitor for the title of greatest Chess player of all time, to Henry Kissenger and Fischer’s brother in law (his closest living relative).

My take from the movie was that Chess didn’t cause Fischer’s insanity, but there was a symbiotic relationship between his Chess and his insanity. I think his childhood drove him to Chess as a way of coping, and his inner demons from childhood pushed him to excel at Chess. But the pressure of his success then exacerbated his mental instability, and it all became a downward spiral.

Final Rating: 7/10