- Reviewed by Charis Scott-Holm
- Published on June 5th, 2011 at 1:51p.m.
Unlike many of the films and documentaries I see, which are full of twists and turns and the unexpected, most of the world knows the fate of Formula One driver Ayrton Senna, who tragically died in a racing accident in his early thirties.
In the 1980s, a young Brazilian driver wowed the world with his daring driving, helped by an unflinching faith in god.
The film 'Senna' explores his formative years karting in Europe, his meteoric rise to fame in F1, and the constant controversy which surrounded his high profile racing career.
Which is a pretty standard way of story-telling in documentaries of this ilk.
What is different about this documentary, for me, is that it doesn't contain any of the 'talking heads' which plague the documentary genre, the video track is made up entirely of archive race, behind the scenes and home-movie footage, and is instead narrated, or commentated over, by the people who knew him the best.
This builds up quite an intimate portrait of the driver- it explores his faith, his flaws, and his failures- but also his courage, and commitment, and real passion for the sport.
Of course, the film contains more than a hint of bias in his squabbles with fellow racing driver Alain Prost, but you can't help but wish Senna on every single race, and take his side in every bit of controversy. He did sometimes seem particularly victimised in his career.
The build up to his tragic death is slow and painful: the commentator warns us at the end of the 1993 championship that neither Prost nor Senna are ever to take to the podium again.
Footage from the fatal race weekend, San Marino 1994, further heightens the dark tone which sets in, with crashes from young Barrichello and a fatal one involving Austrian driver Roland Ratzenberger the day before the race.
What was interesting was the sentimentality the film portrayed, showing footage of people at Senna's funeral interspersed with footage of him with them in real life, and showing the outpouring of grief in his native Brazil.
I thought that the film would have explained more that the circumstances of his death were still unexplained, and focus more about the facts, but it instead went for a more emotive angle, which perhaps proved far more effective in showing the significance of his death on the sport, and the changes which resulted from that horrendous weekend in Imola.
The end of the film states that his was the last death of a driver in a grand prix, and really highlights how far Formula One has come along- since awful crashes which may once have killed a driver, today's drivers now walk away from.
'Senna' provides an interesting journey through the extraordinary life of a sportsman and is told in an original and moving way, providing highs and lows in equal measures. A must-see for fans of the sport, and a fascinating watch all the same for those with even the slightest of interests.