Today: April 19, 2024
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Senna

Senna is a personal portrait of a sporting genius which charts his start as a go-karting driver in his native Brazil to three-time world champion and national icon.

Senna is a personal portrait of a sporting genius which
charts his start as a go-karting driver in his native Brazil to three-time world
champion and national icon.
Eschewing one-on-one interviews typical to most documentaries, director Asif
Kapadia has instead created something altogether more interesting – the result
is a joy, a fitting tribute to a sporting legend but also an arresting piece of
astute film making.

There’s a huge amount of material on offer, from news
footage, intimate home movies, on-car perspectives as well as never-before-seen
clips of drivers’ meetings. These
are linked and structured without the use of talking heads – a style which lends
a fluidity and immediacy to the documentary as it never cuts away from the
action.

What it does capture is Senna’s towering personality and
all-encompassing self-confidence.
Despite coming from a privileged background (you’re unlikely to find
go-karting champions in the favellas of Brazil and his family were rich enough
to indulge their son’s hobby), Senna comes across as remarkably humble – naively believing that simply being the
best driver would be enough to carry him through the choppy political waters of
Formula One motorsport.

Inevitably his ambition coupled with unwillingness to play
the political game caused significant friction, most notable in his
long-standing rivalry with fellow driver Alain Prost, perhaps portrayed a
little unfairly as a calculating sleaze (not helped by a clip showing him
sliming on Selina Scott on the Wogan show) and FIA chief Jean-Marie Balestre –
practically an avatar of stubborn arrogance (“the best decision is my decision”).

That he was a driving genius is undoubtable and Kapadia
gives plenty of evidence of that – Senna’s mastery of the track, particularly
in wet conditions, is plain to see. There are plenty of moments of nail biting
tension, even for those who might have previously thought that Formula One was
dull.

But it’s Senna’s conflicts with the system which are the
most interesting. When interviewed
by racing legend Jackie Stewart about the perceived high number of collisions
he’d had in a racing season, he replied “If you no longer go for a gap, you’re no longer a racing
driver” – a reputation for recklessness all but diffused by the fact that he
reformed The Grand Prix Drivers’ Association to improve track safety following
the death of Ratzenberger and the horrific crash of countryman Rubens Barrichello,
ironically only hours before his own death.

Those
who wish to nitpick will probably point at its impartiality – Kapadia only
touches on Senna’s personal life briefly (and omits his relationship with
Adriane Yamin who was 15 at the time) and doesn’t mention the incident where he
punched Eddie Irvine – but all documentaries have to make omissions and
importantly there’s an overwhelming sense of Senna’s personality, his passion
and his dedication, which is a hard thing to achieve in a documentary.

A
perfect companion piece to TT: Closer To The Edge released a few weeks
previously, Senna is a well-constructed and poignant documentary, appropriate
for not only those who like motorsport but simply for those who appreciate
fantastic cinema and a fitting tribute to a sorely missed master.

To Buy Senna On DVD Click here or on DVD Click Here

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