Archive for the ‘Asif Kapadia’ Tag

Movie review: Senna

As an F1 fanatic, I have been eagerly anticipating the arrival of Senna in UK cinemas. But what if you’re not an Formula 1 fan? Can an almost two hour-long documentary about a guy driving around in fast cars keep you entertained? The answer is yes.

Senna is a fast flowing tale of man who truly lived fast and died young, shot in an unorthodox way compared to the standard, dry story telling pattern most documentaries follow.

The fiercest rivalry in F1, Ayrton Senna versus Alan Prost, features prominently in "Senna"

Director Asif Kapadia said: “For me, film is a very visual medium. I’m not the sort of person who will make a film that is really dialogue heavy”. Kapadia’s cinematic views present themselves on screen with the rejection of talking head and an objective voice over.

Instead, Kapadia relied on nearly 15.000 hours of period footage and audio-only interviews with first-hand observers such as Senna’s family, his rivals and team bosses.

For almost two hours, the screen is filled with sometimes unseen, always entertaining, footage of F1 cars battling through the streets of Monaco, spectacular crashes and the ongoing clash between the flamboyant and controversial Brazilian Ayrton Senna and his archrival, the calm and cool Frenchman Alain “Le Professeur” Prost.

Kapadia said: “Everything you see is real, and I didn’t shoot a frame of it. I didn’t need to. My team and I used the actual footage to create a three act-story of the life Ayrton Senna.”

This is where Senna shows its strength. The spectacular footage, proof that action can be delivered without special effects, combined with the Brazilian’s ‘Hollywoodesque’ life story, makes this documentary the most entertaining and realistic racing movie in decades.

In the eighties and nineties both Sylvester Stallone (Driven) and Tom Cruise (Days of Thunder) tried to bring NASCAR and the Indy 500 to the masses. Both movies lacked realism with over the top special effects and cliché scripting. Also, the US-centred racing leagues drove away European visitors from the cinema.

Arguably, the last good racing films popular on both sides of the Atlantic, were made in the sixties and seventies with John Frankenheimer’s Grand Prix and Steve McQueen’s Le Mans as the two front runners.

Racing fans hail both movies for their exceptional real life racing footage in an era without hundreds of cameras catching the drivers’ every move. Unfortunately both movies suffered from the lack of story line and only race fans were hooked to the productions.

On the brink of super stardom: a young Ayrton Senna and his "JPS" Lotus 97T (1985)

However, Senna strikes the right balance between entertainment and telling an emotional life story. Senna’s life is real, the racing is real, the emotions are real, the crashes a real. And so is death; waiting around every corner on the race track.

In short, Senna is the ultimate (fairy)tale of a racing driver. The Brazilian star, loved and admired by millions and feared by his rivals, lived a life which no Hollywood script writer could come up with, without loosing his or her credibility. This makes Senna a spectacle for both F1 fanatics as well as anyone who likes to see action, drama and emotion in a movie.

Stef Meens

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