Review – Senna

Formula-1 drivers push the boundaries of human skill and mechanical excellence. Absolute perfection is required just to finish a race, to win takes a higher level of skill that only a few achieve. Brazilian motor racing champion Aryton Senna was a gifted driver and is the subject of the new documentary ‘Senna’.

Senna’s life is captured from his humble rise in the European go-karting circuit, through to his arrival on the Formula-1 stage and the success that followed in the 80s.

The story is told using footage collected by filmmaker Asif Kapadia, who tirelessly pieces together the puzzle of Senna’s life – most of it told without the traditional voiceover. The race footage is thrilling and the rarely-seen video of backroom bickering is eye opening.

‘Senna’ is full of colourful racing identities and provides an interesting look into a world full of politics and rivalry. His relationship with fellow driver Alain Prost is like something ripped straight from a Shakespearian play. Built on respect, and brought down by pure hatred, their relationship is fascinating and it’s jaw dropping to see how far they are willing to go to prove who is the best.

Senna himself is an engaging character – a highly intelligent and spiritual person who thrives on a passion for racing, but who is constantly bogged down by people with hidden agendas. His never-say-die attitude is inspiring and the ending is heartbreaking.

Professional sport is full of people corrupted by money, who are put on a pedestal as false idols. Senna was not only a great competitor, but he seemed to be a genuinely good person, who inspired his home country which was awash with poverty at the time. The documentary chooses to leave out any of his misdemeanours, but he comes across as genuine and it’s hard to see him putting a foot wrong.

The themes of spirituality that run through the film are surprising. Senna speaks about how he combines his faith with racing, and how the experience is akin to getting closer to God. During one of the pivotal races in Senna’s career, you can almost see angel wings on the tips of his car as the wind succumbs to the aerodynamics. You can’t help but feel this higher calling may have had something to do with the way Senna was able to push beyond the boundaries of his human limitations and become a legend. It was the edge he had over other drivers, and is a demonstration in the power of faith.

For rev-heads, ‘Senna’ is a must see, but girlfriends and people who have never seen an F1 race may struggle. ‘Senna’ sits in pole position as one of the best documentaries of 2011.

3.5/5

Universal

The Popcorn Junkie

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