Thursday, 4 October 2012

Senna (2010) - Asif Kapadia

First things first, don't panic if you don't like or know anything about Formula 1. Like that other great 'sports' documentary - Hoop Dreams, Senna is, as the title suggests first and foremost about Ayrton Senna. I came to this with a fair bit of knowledge about F1, having followed it from 1984 up until about 2000. So I remember the years when Senna reigned as king of the circuit. I watched this with my wife last night (my second time, her first), and she loved it despite not knowing anything about the subject. So as I say don't be put off, this is a genius documentary that will suck you in within the first fifteen minutes.

So what's it about? Well on the surface it's about Ayrton Senna and his rise through the ranks of Formula 1 racing, becoming a triple world champion and taking his place amongst the greatest F1 drivers ever. During his meteoric assent a rivalry started between him and then world champion Alain Prost. What started out as good natured turned bitter within the space of a few years. Prost was at the top of his game and was about to be overshadowed by Senna. Once both drivers ended up in the same team (McLaren) the sparks really started to fly. It's the sort of drama that if it was in a fictional sports film you would hate it for being too far fetched. The fact that it's totally real and played out before the worlds media makes it all the more engrossing. There is also a lot of the silly politics of F1 woven into Senna's story too. Prost was French, Senna was Brazilian, the head of the governing body of Formula 1 (Jean-Marie Balestre) was also French, so see if you can guess whose side he came down on in any conflicts between Prost and Senna?

It's about so much more than that though. Thanks to home footage shot by the Senna family we get to view Ayrton relaxing away from the 200 MPH life of motor racing. We get a glimpse behind the curtain and see the human being. Which is a rare thing isn't it? Asif Kapadia has woven together footage from all over the place including behind the scenes moments that I've never seen, such as drivers meetings and mixed them with film from the races themselves, and the aforementioned home video footage. The involvement of the Senna family does tend to make this a little one sided, but that's a minor quibble and a small price to pay for such essential background material. The decision to have Senna narrate the documentary and intercut interviews with key players such as Ron Dennis and Prost himself is a masterstroke. Kapadia never shows any contemporary footage of anyone, keeping everything very much rooted in the past. There is so much more to say about this film, but I really can't go there without spoiling things. Just see it.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...