Monday 13 June 2011

Review: Senna

Year: 2010 (U.K release 2011)
Director: Asif Kapadia
Written By: Manish Pandey

Synopsis: A documentary that deals with the life and tragic early death of Ayrton Senna

I've never had any real interest in Formula 1 racing. In the same way people moan about football being overpaid men on a field kicking leather around, F1 to me is rich people in very fast cars driving around a track. I guess my disinterest in the sport stems from a disinterest in cars. I have my drivers licence, even owned a car at one point, but the way people react and interact when in these massive hunks of metal has always been a turn off. Also as a man who reads the back pages first, I've always seen how the politics have affected the sport, but then again name me a popular sport these days that hasn't been infected by money men and the like.

Senna is the perfect film for people who don't have an interest in the sport. Why? Because the subject himself; Ayrton Senna, appears so wonderfully grounded. It also helps that director Asif Kapadia and editors Chris King and Gregers Sall compile a film, not as a typical assembly of talking heads but as a full bodied drama, playing out in front of you with all the tension of many high class Hollywood features. Senna creates a such a riveting portrayal of a man and the sport he loves, that I became more intrigued not only in the man but the sport itself. This is what a good documentary should do.

Taking the most prominent aspect of Senna's life; his privileged yet determined upbringing, his battles against Allan Prost and the FIA, to his tragic final moments. It's put together with laser sighted precision (out of 15,000 hours of footage) and provides poignant insight into a man whose fearlessness (observe his driving on wet surfaces) made him a champion, but his love for his country and faith seem to take him further. Kapadia assemblage of the footage gives Senna a humility that is sorely lacking in my chosen sport Football, although a quick glance at Messi and Kaka shows such personalities haven't completely died out.

There's no doubt that the way the film is put together makes Senna appear like he can do no wrong (it eschews an Eddie Irvine confrontation and a relationship with a 15 year old, which I found out after watching), such one sidedness stops us from seeing a Senna as a truly complete and flawed person. The Film makes Prost out to be a villain of sorts, but some his ominous comments about Senna help revel that the man's drive to compete could be as dangerous as it is inspiring. The film only touches on some of the political drama of the sport which provide some of the most revealing aspects of not only Senna as someone who wished for the safety of those who partake in the sport, but also the bullish and dogmatic talk that show up for the FIA. Being the person I am I would love to see what else was said within the offices and meeting rooms as opposed to some of the more fawning interviews.

This doesn't stop Senna from being the absorbing feature it is. Senna comes across as a man with strong morals and a caring personality. A wonderful moment during the credits involves a selfless Senna jumping out of his car to help another driver whose just crashed, while his talk about pure racing will touch anyone who remembers why they took up a sport when young.  As a film Kapadia's wonderful usage of footage captures not only the tension of the boardrooms, but the high paced excitement of actually being in those races, while the home video and interviews show us a man with a warmth that I feel many wished the Hamltons, Messas and the like had. I for one; would particularly be chuffed if the England Football team took even half a page out of Senna's book. We still probably wouldn't win the world cup but they would definitely win more hearts within the nation.