Review by Rob Carnevale
ASIF Kapadia’s Senna is a remarkable documentary about a remarkable man. What’s more, it’s a film that transcends its subject matter to offer universal appeal to whoever sees it.
Admittedly rose-tinted, the film exists to pay tribute to the colossal talent that was Formula One supremo Ayrton Senna and does so through meticulously constructed footage that allows the driver’s story to unfold through footage rather than talking head interviews.
Hence, using everything from unearthed home videos to never-before-seen backroom videos of drivers’ briefings, as well as familiar news reel and in-car footage, Senna chronicles Ayrton’s rise from go-kart sensation to F1 king, paying particular attention to his intense rivalry with one-time teammate Alain Prost and his fateful final race at Italy’s Imola circuit.
In doing so, it examines how Senna often took on the politics that govern Formula One to emerge as an individual capable of maverick decision-making as well as the often controversial spiritual side of the driver and his close relationship to God.
What results is a gripping expose of one of sport’s true characters, which is as inspirational as it is emotional and as exhilarating as it is eye-opening.
Kapadia captures the spirit of the man and the dynamism that turned him into a national Brazilian hero. But he does so in such a way that mixes humour with high drama, so that even if you’ve never heard of the driver you’ll be gripped to find out what happened next.
Die-hard Senna enthusiasts may lament the exclusion of certain key points or races in Senna’s life, while Prost fans may sulk discontentedly that their hero emerges as the villain of the piece and that some of Senna’s darker elements never even see the light of day.
But then Kapadia’s film wears its heart on its sleeve and makes no pretence that its loyalties lie firmly in the Senna camp.
As a result, his film wraps you up in the phenomenon that Senna became, expertly tapping into the bravado and genius of his racing ability as well as the spiritualism that guided him as a driver and a human being, and the generosity of spirit that ensures his legacy remains intact today.
What’s more, it’s a film that can be enjoyed by almost every viewer, irrespective of whether they’re Formula One fans or not.
It is an astonishing achievement and the type of film that will leave you both exhilarated and devastated in equal measure. Don’t let it pass you by!
Running time: 104mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: October 10, 2011
- Buy it on DVD (Amazon)
- Buy it on Blu-ray (Amazon)
- Read our review
- Asif Kapadia interview, part 1
- Asif Kapadia interview, part 2
- Watch the trailer