Movie Briefs: Senna

Share

by Raj Ranade

A documentary about a race driver who most Americans know nothing about is a tough enough sell for a critic – selling a documentary about a race driver who even most American auto racing fans know nothing about is damn near impossible. But even if NASCAR fans couldn’t care less about the European-dominated sport of Formula 1 racing, anyone watching Senna (playing at the Kentucky Theatre) will find it hard not to for at least 106 minutes.

That’s because director Asif Kapadia a fascinating subject in the spectacular rise and tragic demise of Ayrton Senna, a Brazilian driver who ascended to all-time-great status in F1 racing thanks to a recklessness that would make Ricky Bobby blanch. Largely due to his ultra-devout faith, Senna had a fearlessness that took him to multiple world championships even in cars that were mechanically inferior to the competition – his most famous victory came when he refused to stop racing after a mechanical failure left his car stuck in its highest gear. He also managed to rise above a sport riddled with political machinations – the F1 Chairman who made multiple outrageous referee calls against him happened to be a good friend of his long-time nemesis Alain Prost – but his own inability to ever slow down would catch up with him.

Kapadia avoids the endless-talking-head syndrome of most documentaries by creating a film consisting entirely of archival footage and stitched together with audio recordings of Senna and those who knew him. The footage speaks more eloquently than any narrator could: point-of-view race footage conveys the terror of Senna’s risk-taking, while interview footage reveals a confidence that allowed him to turn a reporter into a soon-to-be-girlfriend on-air. But the film’s greatest moment comes after that race trapped in top gear. Senna could barely move his arms – the effort of keeping the car on the track sent them into muscle spasms – but he forced himself to strain and lift his trophy above his head anyway. A screenwriter might scoff at the tidiness of that all-encapsulating moment, but it’s improbably and gloriously true.



All contents © Ace Weekly, Lexington, KY. All rights reserved. No part of this service may be reproduced in any form without the express written permission of Ace Weekly, except that an individual may download and/or forward articles via email to a reasonable number of recipients for personal, non-commercial purposes.

Powered & Maintained by SunAnt Interactive