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Published on August 2nd, 2011 | by Yellow Magpie

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Senna Film Review: A Life Lived On The Edge

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Senna Film Review

Senna Film Review

Enjoy Yellow Magpie’s Senna Film Review.

Director: Asif Kapadia.

Cast: Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, and Ron Dennis.

Senna manages to raise the standards of the sports documentary and trumps the other sporting film of the year, TT3D: Closer To The Edge, in doing so.

Full of interesting characters with large egos, the film provides unprecedented access to the intoxicating world of Formula One where the drivers are feted and where cars exceed their physical limitations.

Senna Film Review Ayrton Senna

Formula One remains the most popular and most lucrative motor sport on the planet. Of all the drivers who have ridden the F One circuits, Aryton Senna is undoubtedly the most famous of them all.

Senna was a potent combination that merged to form a magnetic personality’

An enigmatic character, extremely confident, honest, and driven, Senna was a potent combination that merged to form a magnetic personality who effortlessly drew many fans throughout the world.

Every film needs a villain and it is provided with abundance by two characters, Alain Prost and his side – kick, the former FIA President, Jean-Marie Balestre. A wily operator, Prost knew how to gain advantage from the system and was at least partly responsible for many of the controversial decisions that afflicted Senna during his tussles with Prost.

Senna Film Review Ayrton Senna Driving For McLaren In 1988 Photo By Paul Lannuier

Initially teammates, Prost and Senna’s personal relationship, while perhaps always tetchy to begin with, gradually got worse as it became clear that Senna was never going to play the loyal understudy. Near the end it became an all out war between the two, a war in which Prost was never afraid to use his influence with Balestre and get his underhanded way through injustice and subterfuge.

‘the most obvious was why the Williams team wiped all of the data from the black box recorder’

There are several omissions in Senna that could have done with being included. One of the most obvious was why the Williams team returned the black box recorder on Senna’s car after the fatal crash with absolutely no data on it despite it not being damaged and why there was no serious sanction for such unscrupulous actions.

The film also never explored the reason why Prost quit Williams after just one season immediately after winning the World Championship. Nor did it mention the rumour as to the ‘real’ reason behind this decision.

When the film concludes the viewer naturally sides towards Senna to the detriment of Prost. Ordinarily, if this was just a film, or a biopic, its neutrality would cause serious concerns. It isn’t though, it is a documentary and the conduct of the drivers and their attitude is there for all to see. They are what they are and they said what they said.

Senna Film Review Ayrton Senna Driving For Lotus In 1986 Photo By Peter Hanna

Perhaps the overlasting triumphs of Senna and that generation of Formula One drivers and officials is candour. It is an epoch that was untouched by public relations, media savvy political correctness and the calculated banal conversation that is the commonplace utterances of today’s drivers.

The fact that Senna is devoid of some of the conveniences of modern film adds to its appeal. The most noticeable in the film is its grainy texture as opposed to the silky smooth, ultra crisp, picture of today.

‘Prost comes across as a highly calculating, manipulative force, always with a hidden agenda beneath the seemingly earnest conversation.’

Perhaps the best insights offered by the contributors come from Ron Dennis who seems to possess a unique understanding of Senna. Quick to expose the gaping chasm between what was spoken and what was really meant in the scenes involving Senna and Prost, Dennis provides a subjective narration that adds wonderfully to the film.

Prost comes across as a highly calculating, manipulative force, always with a hidden agenda beneath the seemingly earnest conversation. One of the most interesting things he utters quite early in the film is that Senna was never content to just beat Prost, he had to humiliate him. As the film progresses, the viewer begins to realise that Senna only raced for one person, himself. It seems far more likely that Prost never really entered the equation much – the only person that Senna was trying to better was Senna.

Senna Film Review Ayrton Senna Driving For McLaren

It is this compulsive, self-competition that underpins Senna and is the reason why he chose to race on his ultimate, fateful final race, despite all the warnings.

Often the greatest stories, the greatest plays, the greatest truths are heavily steeped in contrast. The great contrast in Senna rests on the divide between rich and poor. Despite coming from a privileged background Senna became adored by the people, much of them the poor of Brazil. There is also a second irony in the fact that when Brazil was thrown into crisis and severe poverty by bad government, the sport that the public followed was one firmly endowed in elitism and riches.

‘We never really see the consequences of Senna’s insatiable sexual appetite on his girlfriends, nor on his former wife.’

There is a danger in a film biopic or documentary that the hero figure can become sentimentalised and sanitised. This does occur in Senna to a degree. We never really see the consequences of Senna’s insatiable sexual appetite on his girlfriends, nor on his former wife. These women are not given a voice in the movie. Senna’s sometimes extremely rude behaviour, a glimpse of which is shown in the film, is also not mentioned.

In the end, Senna’s seriously flawed Williams car was the reason why he died. Formula One cars had become too powerful. Year on year, the improvements were dramatic as they sped around the circuits, faster and faster. Removing every electronic driving aid made the vehicles extremely dangerous and Senna, along with Roland Ratzenberger, paid the ultimate price.

Senna is a powerful film that will draw you in, irrespective of whether you like motor sport or not. One not to be missed and certainly a movie that will not be forgotten.

Recommended Viewing

You may like to check out Yellow Magpie’s Ayrton Senna Quotes: The Straight-Talking Racer.

You can obtain Senna here from Amazon.

Amazon.co.uk
For people living in Ireland or the United Kingdom, you can access: Senna from here.

Amazon.ca
For Canada: Senna.

Amazon.de
For Germany: Senna.

Amazon.fr
For France: Senna.


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