Director: Sebastian Dehnhardt
Proving its subjects uncommon thinkers as well as uncommon fighters, the new documentary “Klitschko” is a surprisingly humanizing and informative look at the Ukrainian-born world champion boxing brothers of the same surname. Striking a nice balance between the personal and professional and for the most part avoiding the pitfalls of overly worshipful hagiography, the movie casts a spotlight on a deep, sincere and certainly much more well adjusted fraternal love than on display in last year’s Oscar-winning “The Fighter.”
Shot over the course of two years by director Sebastian Dehnhardt, “Klitschko” has an immediate currency, given the brothers’ collective lock on the five heavyweight championship boxing belts (and correlative promise to their mother not to fight one another). Few documentaries of this depth and considerable access come out this close to the apex of an athlete’s career. Still, “Klitschko” is mostly or at the very least as interesting for what it gets into outside of the ring as what the insight it provides into professional boxing. The sons of a career military man, Vitali, six years older, and Wladimir, the softer spoken of the two, translated the driven nature and communicated high expectations of their parents into success in both school (both would eventually earn post-graduate degrees) and boxing. Remarkably, though separated in age by a good bit, the two share an amazingly tight bond, and seemingly the same otherworldly focus required to hone their bodies into the physical specimens they are today.
Interviews with former combatants like Lennox Lewis, Lamon Brewster and Chris Byrd provide a nice outside perspective, and help underscore a largely unspoken but still ever-present current coursing through the film — that of the brothers as Cold War proxies, and therefore fighters whose talents (and, later, accomplishments) were not to be trusted, but instead denigrated. The Klitschkos’ mother and father share significant, shading family memories, but it’s the brothers themselves who are of course the main attraction. Dehnhardt allows the Klitschkos — who are each conversationally fluent in English — to speak mostly in their native tongues, allowing the amusing, idiosyncratic nuances of their recollections to more fully come through.
If it’s a bit overlong for some details to not be seemingly given their full due — like Vitali’s temporary retirement and foray into Ukrainian politics, in which he remains still active today — “Klitschko” at least showcases behemoth athletic champions who are worthy of role model status for reasons other than just their physical accomplishments. And the fact that its title is singular and not plural… well, that says something too.
Written by: Brent Simon