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"Senna" is a 2010 documentary feature film about the life of legendary Formula 1 driver Ayrton Senna.
I won't go into the plot like i normally would in a review of a movie, as this is a documantary, but also a movie in as much as it centres on a hero ( Senna ) who has humble beginnings and slowly but surely through natural talent rises to the top of his chosen sport, however like any good movie plot there are things and people standing in his way ( in this case the main culprits are fellow driver Alain Prost and the then head of The motor racing governing body Jean-Marie Balestre ).
The magic of this movie is that there is not one single word spoken by the filmmaker ( Asif Kapadia ) and no voice over for the movie, every part of the movie is strung together by interviews with his colleagues and friends, actual footage and interviews with the man himself and news footage from the day.
Its a testament to the man but also the filmmaker that 18 years after his death ( and i still remember that day vividly ) a story such as this is still current and would be widely viewed by such a large amount of people.
The key thing to know about this movie is that you don't need to care or even know anything about Formula 1 or even motor racing itself, this is a movie about a great man and is a human interest piece, its very well edited and put together to elicit the right emotions from the viewer and I defy any actual fan of the man himself to not get emotional in the final minutes of the movie as Senna's story reaches a conclusion.
Im sure Formula 1 fans will instantly be attracted to this movie ( if for no other reason than you actually get to see Formula 1 in what I consider to be its golden age ) and im sure motorsport fans in general will be drawn to this movie, but non-fans will be missing one of the best documentaries of the last 10 years if they dont check "Senna" out, its a magical piece of filmmaking that will certainly stay cherished in my collection.
Senna is a 2010 documentary film directed by Asif Kapadia about the Brazilian F1 driver Ayrton Senna, who died in 1994, aged 34.
F1 was something that was always on in my house as a child every other Sunday afternoon, but it wasn't until 1992 onwards that I started to pay a bit of attention to it. I still wouldn't have considered myself a fan of F1 in 1994, however I remember the weekend Ayrton Senna died very well. I particularly remember reading on Teletext that terrible Sunday afternoon that he had died, and seeing the funeral footage from Brazil in the days that followed. As an obsessive F1 fan now, I am fascinated about the history of the sport, and so this film was something that I couldn't wait to see when it was released in UK cinemas this summer.
The film is made up of archive F1 footage, and private Senna family videos. There is no official narrator - instead the film is narrated by the commentators on the race footage (such as Murray Walker and James Hunt, and Brazilian F1 commentator; the excitable Galvao Bueno), journalists like Reginaldo Leme, and people who knew Senna, for example his sister Viviane.
The film does not focus for long on his childhood or how he got into racing, instead diving into his F1 career almost right away. The bulk of the film is made up of footage from the 1985 to 1994 F1 seasons, and includes onboard footage, for example of him driving at Monaco 1988 before crashing into the wall at Portier. It also focuses mainly on his famous title battles with then McLaren teammate Alain Prost, covering both the on track accidents and controversies, but also the off track politics with regards to then FIA president Jean Marie Balestre.
I have to say that obviously the film weighs very heavily in favour of Ayrton Senna, as you'd expect, of course. I did find it very biased against Alain Prost, who is portrayed as a driver who ran to stewards and relied on politics to get his own way, rather than fighting things out on the track. Therefore Prost fans who didn't like Senna when he was racing (and he was definitely a polarising figure!) may not be too happy at how Alain is shown. In contrast, some of Senna's more ruthless moments on track are perhaps brushed over, and he is very much portrayed as a spiritual, dynamic driver who was always in the right. Asif Kapadia is a self-confessed Senna fan so I think he can be forgiven for this - many millions of fans still buy into the Senna 'myth'.
Senna also shows Ayrton's private side, particularly how much he did for Brazil. One of the most emotional parts of the film is the footage of him winning the 1991 Brazilian GP. There is footage of the deliriously happy fans in Sao Paulo, who say that he gave them some joy in their lives at a time when Brazil needed health, education and money, and didn't have a good reputation worldwide. These parts of the film also show Ayrton's humanitarian efforts, and more philosophical, thoughtful side.
The film has humour and excitement, but as each year of F1 is shown, you do get a sense of foreboding as you get closer to 1994. By the time Imola is shown, you know what is going to happen and it can be hard to keep watching. Imola 1994 was a very black weekend for F1, and you are shown each disastrous and tragic thing that happened beforehand, such as Rubens Barrichello's terrible crash in practice, the death of Roland Ratzenberger in qualifying, and the dangerous crash on the grid at the beginning of the race that Sunday. Senna's crash is thankfully only shown once, with little speculation given about what actually happened that day.
Senna ends with footage from his funeral which is heartbreaking. You see the people who have featured most heavily in the film, like Ron Dennis, Alain Prost and his sister.
Senna is a sad film, yes, however ultimately it's not about motor racing - it's about someone who lived their life to the fullest, and tried to give something back. You absolutely don't need to be an F1 fan to enjoy this film, or even to have ever watched a single lap. It's a fascinating and spellbinding documentary which will leave you feeling thoughtful and maybe even inspired.
Star - Ayrton Senna
Run-Time - 106 minutes
Genre - Documentary
Country - UK
Cert - 12A
Most older sports fans remember where they were when Senna was killed. I was piling across the Arizona desert in a rather tasty little hired sports car thinking I was Ayrton Senna, only cacti and rattlesnakes for company. I just recall what a shock it was to hear, especially on American radio, the mere mention of F1 a surprise; NASCAR and INDY CAR king this far west.
Senna truly was the best and never compromised, driving on the very edge as the car shook itself to pieces under huge duress and no doubt in equal fear of going around those corners, Senna teasing certain death if he got it wrong by just an inch, which he finally did in 1994, smashing into the Tamburello Corner at the San Marino racetrack at 205mph, managing to scrub off just 25mph before the head on impact. He hit the tyre wall at exactly the right angle for a piece of the steering column to slam his head back violently on to his seat support to cause fatal head trauma, dying of cardiac arrest in the helicopter that lifted him up and over the sunny tax haven, people in beautiful olive groves and rustic houses below oblivious to what has just happened. Most who knew racing knew this was the only way he would ever stop racing though, some saying the devoutly religious Brazilian had a death wish and so not fearing that moment, for him the afterlife as blissful as racing to him.
Senna the movie has been along time coming, a very honest, thrilling and tension packed documentary to boot. The narrative is created by archive footage of his career, some familiar, some new and unseen, devoid of subjective commentary on top to make it opinionated, director Asif Kapadia leaving it completely up to you to make up your mind about the handsome and loved Brazilian through the collection of iconic images and interviews, the film, rather pleasingly, not accusing anyone over his death. There was demand for it too, British race fans lapping this up big time, the film taking £375,000 on its opening weekend, a record for any British documentary.
Kapadia has been allowed fabulous access to old film footage with in F1, especially from both the Senna estate and Bernie Ecclestone unrivalled archives, making this the definitive film on Senna, and any race driver if we are honest as it's that well put together and sourced. Pretty much all of the top drivers and race pundits you can think of, past and present, want to contribute to the great mans life through this movie, as temperamental as he may have been towards them at some point in their careers, plenty of the darker side of Senna on show in the movie. This guy was 100% full on for his sport and winning.
My experience of Senna was only ever a positive one as I got the chance to see him race plenty at the British Grand Prix in my home county of Northamptonshire. Even from afar you could see the guy stood out from the rest and was always on the limit and determined to test himself on every corner, actually accelerating through those corners if the legend be true, a style of racing never experienced before until Senna showed up, often bullying his way past fellow drivers if they didn't give way. He was the best and he knew it. Everyone else was a distraction or an obstruction.
The early days for Senna were predictable for virgin race drivers, bought up in a comfortable and white middle-class Brazilian household and soon snug in a go-cart before he was ten-years-old to earn his racing wings, his first cart race in 1976. He graduated through the various formulas with consummate ease and won the British Formula Three championship in 1984 before being offered a drive with a small F1 privateer called Toleman. Team leader Ted Toleman was astonished at his practice laps and signed him there and then. His debut performance at Monte Carlo was as equally impressive, carving through the rain and twisty streets to finish second, captured on film here, nearly first as race winner Alain Prost wanted the Grand Prix stopped due to that heavy rain, the French driver going on to be his great rival and the sports biggest whinger. Prost was known as the professor as racing was all about percentages over risks and he didn't want to take too many risks. I think Senna hated him for that but in the end Prost was right because he is still alive.
The move to Renault Lotus for three years meant better funded cars and so race victories, six in all, his first ever an emotional Portuguese Grand Prix, Senna emotional in the movie at that moment in the stylish John player Lotus car. Watching Senna bomb around the Monaco circuit on some old grainy footage from the onboard camera is something to see. But it's the move to McLaren in 1988 to partner the extremely French Alain Prost that makes the movie, their constant arguments and duels on and off the track thrilling stuff, Grand Prix at its best. In the 1980s the cars were as fast as they have ever been and yet fewer deaths than the 1970s and 1960s, safer tracks and run off areas meaning the drivers could really go for it with wheel to wheel racing. There is some great footage of the two sizing each other up in the pits and interviews and the body language fascinating. In those days great drivers would win the championship in good cars whereas today average drivers tend to be the champions because they are in the best cars. Senna would probably not enjoying racing today because of that technology and the politics of getting a good drive. If Damon Hill got that Williams drive fairly then I'm a Dutchman!
Senna would go on to win three world championships in the McLaren team with Prost increasingly at odds with him, some of the pre race driver meetings where the discuss safety and rules electric viewing. It's pretty clear Prost played the politics of F1 beautiful and drove conservatively on the track because of the extra gumption he got from the politics, the exact opposite to Ayrton. The fact the head of Motor Racing back then was a fellow obnoxious Frenchman certainly helped Prost win the 1989 championship with some bias rulings.
The film then moves nearer to his death, the Williams and Ferrari teams tearing ahead in fly-by-wire technology and so the McLaren no longer competitive, Senna forcing a move to Williams, but the technology outlawed when he finally got the seat in 1994, taking Mansells Williams seat, the Brit moving to Cart Racing in America to escape the agro, Prost retiring because he couldn't get that seat and Ferrari sacking him for criticising his last car.
The new Williams handles terrible and isn't going around corners, Senna increasingly apprehensive as the season rolls on to San Marino, the death of Roland Ratzenburger on the Saturday morning the first for 17-years in F1, an omen a God-fearing man can't ignore on an accident packed weekend. Schumacher had also arrived and his Benetton car far superior, the pressure ramped up on Senna to go faster and take more risks in a dog of a car.
What's pleasant about this film is it doesn't resort to cliché and we don't have to suffer Murray Walker all the way through, very much an ensemble piece. There are some subtitles to deal with as a lot of the race sequence commentaries are in his native Brazilian, giving the film a real passionate texture, and some of the footage is warn and so also adding authenticity. Senna was Brazils new Pele and incredibly famous out there, that, always an added pressure to his Formula One carer and results, the documentary able to blend in that celebrity in context to his cavalier driving style, Senna noticeably maturing and growing into that responsibility throughout the documentary. The religious side to Senna's character is interesting and how he always thought God was on his side and not backing the drivers he was shunting off the track at 180mph always the contradiction with him. I think it's fair to say he used his God as an excuse for his driving arrogance on the track, this very much a hagiography on behalf of Catholic God-fearing Brazil.
So on the whole its great stuff, a film that will appeal to both F1 fans and those who don't know much about Senna, definitely in line for a BAFTA and maybe even an Oscar next year. The storyline builds with tension to his inevitable demise and you re-live all of those exciting moments when racing was racing and not advertising hoardings chugging around as it is today. Bring back the old six wheel Tyrell's with the huge fans.lol.
Imdb.com - 8.7/10.0 (9,5675 votes)
Rottentomatos.com - 92% approval rating
Metacritic.com - 79% critic's approval
The Sun - "Even nonbelievers in Senna's sport and church will find it difficult to visit Kapadia's cinematic shrine without emotion".
St Louis Post - "Senna" is simply the greatest sports film I have ever seen"
Chicago Sun times -"Senna" is a documentary that does the job it sets out to do. I wish it had tried for more".
= = = = Extras = = = =
'The Great one'
A short film on the Ayton Senna federation, the charity he set up to help children in Brazil.
Director Asif Kapadia talks about his film.
= = = = = = = = = = = =
Senna is a 2010 documentary film that depicts the life and death of Brazilian motor-racing champion, Ayrton Senna. It is Asif Kapadia's fourth feature film as director, and is distributed by Working Title/Universal Pictures. It includes contributions from many motorsport greats, and is produced and directed with great taste in order to not taint such a sensitive topic.
The story of the monumental life and tragic death of legendary Brazilian motor-racing Champion, Ayrton Senna. Spanning the decade from his arrival in Formula One in the mid 80's, the film follows Senna's struggles both on track against his nemesis, French World Champion Alain Prost, and off it, against the politics which infest the sport. Sublime, spiritual yet, on occasion, ruthless - Senna conquers and transcends Formula One to become a global superstar. Privately, he is humble, almost shy, and fiercely patriotic, donating millions to his native Brasil and contemplating a life beyond motor-racing. Yet he is struck down in his prime on the blackest weekend in the history of the sport, watched live on television by 300 million people. Years on he is revered in Formula One as the greatest motor racing driver of all time - and in Brasil as a Saint.
The film is a fitting tribute to one of the best individuals, both in terms of talent and personality, that the sport has ever seen. It is especially important to note how tastefully the film has been put together, and is certainly something which has not ruined or tainted the reputation and skill of such a great human being.
Buy this today if you're into motorsport!
Ayrton Senna was a Formula 1 racing driver who came to Formula 1 in 1984 driving for Toleman. After a famous race in Monaco in wet conditions, Senna took the Toleman to second place before the race was red flagged. This was the moment people realised Senna had a special Talent. He then moved to Lotus and spent 3 years driving with them before moving to Mclaren where he won his first world championship.
There was a lot of drama that went on between him and his team mate Alain Prost which cause a lot of difficultly within the team.
Senna went on to win the world championship in 1990 and 1991.
In 1994 Senna left Mclaren to drive for Williams where he found great difficulty controlling the car and he didn't finish a single race.
The weekend of Senna's death was an horrific one. It was the San Marino Grand Prix. In Friday practice Rubens Barrichello had a major crash and nearly swallowed his tongue. The next day in during qualifying Roland Ratzenberger had a fatal crash. Then during the race 1st may, lap 7 Senna had his fatal crash.
This movie shows you the true inspiration he was, how he wanted to help people, how ruthless his driving was and his passion. Its not just about him as a driver, its about him as a person as well.
I wanted to see this movie since the moment I discovered it was being made and it was defiantly the best movie I have ever seen.
I would recommend this movie to anyone, Formula 1 fan or not. It would be impossible to come out of this movie not having respect and love for him.
Ayrton Senna is one of the world's most famous Formula 1 racing drivers, perhaps due to the fact he died tragically at the young age of 34 in 1994 in a motor racing accident. This docu-film looks at the life of the enigmatic racing driver, the man behind the public persona we all saw, and the politics that went on behind the scenes at Formula One. We see everything from Senna's infamous battle with the French racing driver Alain Prost, his three World Championship victories, and of course his tragic accident at Imola which lead to his untimely death. Using never-before-seen home video footage interspersed with Formula One footage and other video, this documentary is a fantastic look at a man much missed by Brazil, and the world of motor racing... Ayrton Senna.
I am not a motor racing fan by any means. I used to sit at home on a Sunday afternoon and watch it with my dad and brother when I was a little girl because it was on, but I didn't know much about it. Even now, I don't follow Formula One but I have to admit this docu-film really attracted my attention after being featured on Top Gear a short while ago, and Jeremy Clarkson branding it an absolute must-see. I actually remember seeing the news of May 1st 1994 (I was only 8 years old) announcing the death of Ayrton Senna after his accident, and it shocked the world, but especially his home town of Brazil. I didn't know enough him to let it affect me, I think I only remember as that date is my nan's birthday and we were all at home having sunday dinner, and I remember it sombering the mood somewhat, so when this film was released in Reading Vue cinema yesterday (3rd June) I decided to go and see for myself what all the fuss was about.
This is not a dramatisation of Ayrton Senna, it is more a documentary than a feature film as it is 100% true, uses real footage throughout, and contains voiceovers from various people who are seen throughout the movie from the world of motor sport and sports journalists too. I expect that hardcore Senna fans will have seen a lot of this before, via places such as YouTube but for someone like me, 98% of the footage was unseen and new, so that was good. Being that the footage mainly dates from the late 1980's to mid 1990's, it isn't the best quality but even on the large cinema screens, its more than watchable and looks very good on screen. Yes, it's grainy but it just adds to the time and authenticity of the piece, and I think it comes across very well. Some of the footage is better than others, but its just atmospheric, and I liked the unpredictability of it in that sense.
The documentary really aims to look at the man behind the racing driver name of Ayrton Senna that a lot of people know. We see Ayrton speak a lot about his religion and God, and how important it is to him to respect that and how much of a part that played in his life and his career. He was a deeply philosophical man, yet had the grit and determination to succeed whatever the cost in his job. However, the film does show a more "human" side to the driving machine that is Senna. A great example is when his car flips and lands him head-first in the gravel pit, serving as a stark reminder to Senna he is just as likely to get hurt as anyone else in the sport, but it takes him having a relatively serious accident to fully comprehend this fact. Senna's facial expressions speak a thousand words, and watching him, you can almost feel every emotion, his face gives everything away and that in turn adds a whole new level to the film - I've never seen Senna in this light before, and the movie really highlights what kind of man Senna was - kind-hearted, determined, giving (he gave a lot of money to charity at home in Brazil) but most of all ambitious and determined to succeed.
The rivalry between Senna and Prost takes up a lot of the early movie, mainly because that is what helped to shape Senna's career in Formula One. When he joined Maclaren and partnered Prost, everyone knew that both men desperately wanted to win the World Championship title again, but nobody could forsee just how far these men would go to fulfill their dreams. We see footage of both men speaking about each other, the effect this had not only on them, but the teams and the sport as a whole too. The vitriolic words that come from Prost about Senna are quite shocking but goes to show how deeply the men were entrenched in their dislike for each other and determination to out-do each other on the track. Senna, however, always seems careful never to completely bad-mouth, doing it in a more clever and roundabout than Prost delivers! As well as looking at this rivalry, the movie does take a look at the behind-the-scenes politics of Formula One, from the awful FIA director Jean-Marie Balestre and his shocking decisions regarding the disclipling of Senna, and other questionable areas behind the scenes at Formula One.
I don't normally mention a sound track when I am reviewing a film unless a particular song really moved me, but on this occasion I have to applaud the entire musical score. It is mainly composed by Antonio Pinto, someone I had not heard of until I googled his name for the purpose of this review, but the man is a genius when it comes to the soundtrack he has created for this movie. He captures the raw emotion, the excitement, the thrill of the race, and the tragedy of Senna's death in a few instrumental pieces of music that enhance every single scene they appear in. It was a joy to listen to this soundtrack accompany this film, and I certainly hope the film-makers look to release this fantastic musical score at some point as I am sure anyone who has seen this film will be interested in hearing it again and again.
The film goes through Senna's career at Formula One, and eventually hits on the fateful day on 1st May 1994, at Imola, where Senna is to race his final race and tragically end his life. There was something very odd about watching a clearly troubled man on-screen, with the audience knowing what is going to happen to him, yet he has no idea. Yet, I couldn't help but feel watching this that Senna did have a sense of foreboding about this race, and this just added to my unsettled feeling. I almost didn't want to watch but found myself glued to the screen, heart-beating fast. I'm not ashamed to say I shed a tear over this whole section of the movie, it's incredibly moving, and when you have spent almost 2 hours getting to know Ayrton Senna in a way you probably haven't before, the now infamous crash takes on a very different stance when watched in this context.. it feels incredibly sad and the entire cinema seemed on edge and moved by what they saw.
Something that spelt out to me the power this movie had was the credits. Usually, the moment the credits roll on a film , 99% of the audience is on its feet and rushing for the door. When the credits rolled for this film, no one moved. We all wanted to watch the repeated scenes from the film playing alongside the credits, and it took the lights eventually going up and the Vue advertisements beginning on the screen again for us to begin to vacate the cinema. The film definitely had an effect on us, and hours after watching it, I am still thinking about the things Senna said, and the turmoil he was going through at the Imola race weekend, and wishing he had decided not to race, as Frank Williams had fully expected him not to.
I cannot recommend this film highly enough, whether you are a motor sport fan or not. As I mentioned, I'm certainly not but I was glued to the screen for the duration, which is just over 2 hours long. The audience in my screen were laughing along at some of Senna's funnier moments which did come quite frequently, and one perfect scene involving Alain Prost walking in front of a Brazilian crowd after Senna's first home grand prix victory with the most perfect subtitling (I shan't spoil it for you here!). We all held our breath as the on-board camera on Senna's car shows us his last moments around the Imola track, and shed a tear at the moving funeral footage, his sister Vivianne clutching Senna's helmet being one of the most moving images of the lot. There isn't as much race footage as some may expect, instead focussing on interviews etc, but for me the balance was just right. This is a superb documentary, and for once, I don't mind admitting Jeremy Clarkson was 100% right when he branded this unmissable. Truly fantastic.
(Please see imdb.com for full list of people featured in this film)
Directed by Asif Kapadia
Running Time: 106 minutes
Thank you for reading.