Director: Asif Kapadia
Starring: Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost
YOU might think a documentary about the short life of a Formula 1 racing driver from Brazil might not be the most riveting subject.
However, this is as good as it gets and while I have an on/off interest in motor racing, this film captured me for the full 106 minutes.
Senna was a natural Formula 1 driver, excelling in the most dangerous conditions, such as when the heavens opened.
He was admired by many and hated by a few of his peers. But to Brazilians he was as big an idol as you can get - personifying the hopes and dreams of a nation, many of whom were struggling to make ends meet.
Senna’s determination and good looks made him a figurehead in the sport - especially as he kept on winning.
There was an added frisson as he had a fiery feud with fellow driver Prost. It was the precise and careful thinking Frenchman versus the passionate people’s champion.
The film follows Senna’s career from the 80s when he came from a successful karting career into the dizzy world of Formula 1, with its big personalities and internal politics.
Director Asif Kapadia had thousands of hours of footage to look through as Senna was followed constantly by TV and film crews.
To his credt, Kapadia didn’t opt only for the best quality film, concentrating more on shots that told the story.
We also don’t have ‘talking heads’ so modern day comments are dubbed over the film to give a better flow.
On the big screen the drama and excitement of the sport comes across well.
There’s no holding back on some of the more distressing excerpts, with the twisted body of one driver (who survivied) shown lying on the track, his car in bits around him.
By the time we get to Senna’s own demise we can see the tension on his face before the race. The fatal crash (the second during that weekend in Italy) is shown as the television audience saw it along with the reaction of those at trackside.
Senna, at the incredibly young age of 34, was the last Formula 1 driver to die on the track.
The film is a testimony to a deeply religious man who was on the brink of achieving so much more both on the track and off it.
five out of five stars
Screening courtesy of Cineworld Crawley.