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  Bobby Fischer Against the World Dangerous Moves
Year: 2011
Director: Liz Garbus
Stars: Bobby Fischer, Susan Polgar, Henry Kissinger, Harry Benson, Garry Kasparov, Dick Cavett, various
Genre: Documentary, BiopicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: Bobby Fischer, in the minds of many who play the game, was the greatest chess player who ever lived, but he became if anything more notorious for his behaviour away from the board as he did sitting at it. He was the son of Regina Fischer, an activist who left him alone for long periods of his childhood while she went off and protested against nuclear weapons among other things, leading her to be investigated by the C.I.A. It could be said this influenced him detrimentally, for while it led him to consume his days with chess in his mind he suffered...

Fischer was one of the greatest and most tragic stories in the history of the game, but naturally a life with such soaring highs and crashing lows makes for a compelling yarn as director Liz Garbus realised for this documentary account of his life. It was all here: his troubled childhood, his huge success, his place in the sporting and pop culture pantheon, and his eventual decline into ranting madness, all of which made for absorbing viewing, and presented unpretentiously thanks to the access she gained to both the wealth of archive material and those happy to be interviewed on the subject of Fischer, from those who knew or met him.

For the first half, the film concentrated on the man's early years and mixed them up with possibly the most famed chess match ever held, the 1972 championship in Iceland between Fischer and his great Russian rival, Boris Spassky. The world was watching, and there is hard to believe footage of the occasion not only taking the top headlines in the nightly news, but the TV networks clearing the schedules for broadcasts from the head to head. All of this was largely down to the fact this was Soviet brains versus American know-how, one of those battles between the superpowers where no shot was fired, yet the ideological stakes were incredible.

It's easy to look at Fischer's childhood - anyone's childhood, really - and play the "Child is the father of the man" card, and that's what Garbus did here, although to be fair it suited the genius perfectly as you could muse over the fact that should Fischer have not lost himself in chess to escape his troubles, he might have resulted in a more rounded human being. Sadly, it was his later paranoia which could be traced to those long hours practicing as well, and we see hints, some more overt than others, that the man was having problems staying sane even in his early interviews. When we reach his antics in the Iceland championship, you marvel that it was a miracle he was able to function outside of the matches at all.

The old adage which observes the fine line between genius and madness would appear to have been conceived to describe Fischer, and the more interviews we hear with grave-faced people who had to deal with his erratic behaviour, the sadder this becomes. By the time the wilderness years come along, where Fischer dropped out of sight, having played chess professionally for a mere five years before his psychosis dominated him, the tone has turned grim and the footage of his reemergence into the world was far from pretty. Although he was Jewish, his conspiracy theories obsessed him, especially the idea that the Jews were trying to control the globe, and that the United States were behind all sorts of wicked machinations to boot, and what we see of him consists of Bobby raving to anyone who would listen on this insanity. Maybe it was all that bit too depressing to be called an enjoyable experience, but this film was as good a place as any to prompt consideration over the fragility of brilliant minds.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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