Senna on DVD – more than just your dad’s favourite christmas present!
Ayrton Senna is widely regarded as the best racing car driver who ever lived. This documentary film aims to humanise the man behind the crash helmet and succeeds in doing that and far, far more.
With unprecedented access to stock footage from F1’s archives and beyond, the filmmakers here wisely eschew talking heads in favour of a series of expert narrators giving background info whilst the on and off track visuals continue uninterrupted.
This keeps the viewer locked in the action and gives the events a sense of immediacy usually lacking in this style of film. Consequently the emotions of the people in the film are accurately conveyed to the viewer.
For example the shot of Senna seething with anger at himself after crashing out of the Monaco GP is superbly rendered in slo-mo and shows his inability to accept the situation perfectly.
The film’s score by Antonio Pinto is brilliantly evocative of the on screen events and even without the narration I believe the musical cues are good enough to explain to the viewer what is happening. His use of tension building cues is masterful.
The in-car footage (particularly Monaco) has an astounding visceral quality. It feels thrillingly, terrifyingly fast! One key scene describing Senna’s driving style shows him just keeping his Lotus on the track whilst the car twitches and struggles to get away from him like an angry tiger. It is some of the best race footage I have ever seen and a million miles away from the dull F1 coverage we currently get on TV.
The film is far from being a boring hero worship exercise and also includes flashes of humour in the way Senna deals with TV appearances (particularly a bizarre Christmas time extravaganza from Brazil) and it’s inclusion of Alain Prost’s outrageous flirting with an English TV host.
Ah Prost. The yin to Senna’s yang. His Darth Vader. Frankly Prost doesn’t come out of this film looking too good. As an expert driver and professional, Prost was already well established at McLaren when Senna joined. A pragmatist who would do whatever it took to win, Prost and Senna’s rivalry descended from strained pleasantries in their first season to the ‘Cold War’ of the second.
Again this is perfectly summed up by one slo-mo shot of a look between the two so icy, it could frost over the Gobi desert.
A mention must go to the president of the FIA at the time Jean-Marie Balestre. Imagine a French dictator running a sporting organization. That is essentially how he comes across on film. It is a good thing we know this actually happened; were it a fictional film you would have a hard time believing he was real.
I have said little about Senna the man. This is because the film does this so well I do not wish to spoil it for you. However what I can say is that the picture I got was of a man with a thirst for knowledge both in and out of racing which makes his early demise all the more tragic.
However whist not avoiding this fact the film is a celebration of his life and the hope he gave to millions in his native Brazil. I came away with a newfound respect for the man.
I highly recommend the two disc special edition as the extra interviews are enlightening and do give more balance to the Prost/Senna debate. The filmmakers commentary is also one of the more informative I have heard and the detail more than compensates for the dryness of it.
Coming back to that word emotion again, I would point out that you don’t need a knowledge of the sport to enjoy this film. The only thing you need is the capacity to feel. If you have this then the film will make you feel all kinds of things, but at the end you’ll be left with one overriding emotion for Senna. Awe.
You can buy the movie now on our new online store.