Wednesday, December 7, 2011

"Fear is exciting for me."

Film: Senna
Year: 2011
Director: Asif Kapadia
Written by: Manish Pandey
Starring: Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Frank Williams, Ron Dennis, Viviane Senna, Milton de Silva, Neide Senna, Jackie Stewart, Sid Watkins.
Running time: 106 min.

If, for some reason, you think that you shouldn't watch Senna because it doesn't look like it'll interest you, let me tell you my story. I have never taken an interest in Formula One. I really dislike watching documentaries. I had never heard of Ayrton Senna before in my life. And guess what? Senna is my favourite movie of the year. You should have seen me at the end...I was crying more than I cried at the end of Toy Story 3. And this is a documentary of Formula One that we are talking about. So if you pass this movie by at the DVD store simply because you're not interested, then I've got news for you, my friend. I wasn't supposed to like this movie, but I loved it. Actually, love is a bit of an understatement.

Basically, Senna is a documentary about Brazilian Formula One driver Ayrton Senna, who has been hailed by many as the "greatest driver who ever lived". The film is impressively made up of only archive footage, with commentary from Senna's family and friends, and also commentators of the sport. The first thing I noticed about this film was how well it was edited. I imagine that it would have been an extremely difficult task to choose the right footage to put in the film. But what is even more impressive is that all of this footage forms a coherent narrative. Here's why people who aren't fans of Formula One or documentaries shouldn't have to proceed with caution: sometimes, you forget that you're watching a documentary, and Senna's story is so fascinating that the Formula One aspect barely plays a big part. He is a man driven to succeed (no pun intended), a man who became a hero in his homeland of Brazil, a man who would basically go hard or go home. He's a man who had rivalries, particularly with his former team-mate Alain Prost. He had a meteoric rise to fame, but remained humble and close to God. His personality was mildly eccentric, as he was a bit of an outsider when it came to the world of fame. In other words, Ayrton Senna is the best character that Hollywood never came up with.

The film has footage of Senna's races, various press opportunities, family videos and his TV appearances. Through these, you get a really clear image of who Senna is as a man, and also who Prost is. I found their rivalry to be one of the most interesting components of the film. It felt like I was watching a normal film whenever I was watching them, as their rivalry was so well built up. Also, the film is not made as a documentary looking back at Senna's life. Apart from the obvious ageing of the footage, it feels very present. It's exciting to watch, particularly if you don't know anything about Senna, because everything just unfurls before your eyes, instead of focusing on his untimely death and working backward. I watched and I absorbed, and by the end I felt like I'd idolised him all of my life. And then the most unexpected thing happens. My new hero dies, and I can just see millions of little dreams dying with him. That final lap just sends chills down my spine. I cry and cry. Now, if you'd said that I would have cried during a documentary about Formula One, I would have told you go get checked out by a doctor or something. But it happened. I think that the large majority of my crying comes down to the way the funeral is edited, in a style that reminded me of Blue Valentine. It compares the sad with the happy, and it does it with such magnificent strength that you can't help but feel tears well up in your eyes. It's not in any way corny, it is genuine sadness, a genuine look at what it's like to have a million dreams shattered.

The Academy may have shut out Senna from competing in the Best Documentary category, but I think this movie should make like Ayrton and go for gold. The editing, particularly, is probably the best that I have ever seen, in the way that it evokes true emotion and forms a proper narrative. Also, I know it's impossible, but one day documentaries should break out of their own categories and get recognition in the Best Picture race. Senna is as worthy as any other film to have a go in the Best Picture category. Senna is phenomenal, impressive and compelling film-making, whichever angle you look at it from. Senna is, without a doubt in my mind, the best film I've seen this year (sorry, Midnight in Paris...). Let me reiterate: this is a documentary about Formula One that we're talking about. I'm more surprised than anything that this is this year's Inception for me.

You don't have a reason not to see Senna. Nothing should turn you off this movie. I may have run the risk of over-hyping this movie for some of you, but it really is that amazing.

What I got:


  1. Wow. Sounds even better than I thought it would be (and I thought it would be pretty fuckin' good). I shall rent it today!

  2. So glad that you loved it!

    I, too, was sobbing like a baby. Surprised I didn't know what happened to Senna in the end considering I know a fair bit about F1 thanks to family (I even got who was on the top-3 podium the other day, much to my annoyance...).

    I think it may be safe to say that I am the only sort of person around the blogsphere that loved Senna but actually knew about F1...the only one that I have come across anyway!

    Not sure why I didn't add it to my Top 100 films, because, it definitely is one of my favourites now. Gonna revise that, that's for sure!

    Welcome on board the Senna train, Stevee! Glad to have you here!

    Great review as always, btw!

  3. Man I can't wait to finally rent this one, looks really good! My brother was a big fan of Formula 1 when I was a wee girl so I'm quite familiar w/ Senna. Nice review, Steeve!

  4. Awesome review! It's totally unfair that this can't compete for best documentary. Maybe it still has a chance for Best Editing?

  5. I loved this film, as you know, and I did cry a lot at the end. Even though we all knew it was going to have that tragedy.

    It was a little one sided, in my opinion, anti-Prost. And did you notice that Prost is one of the founders of Senna's trust? Weird.

    Not taking anythign away from the film. It was ace!!

    Great review matey

  6. Tyler - I hope you enjoy/enjoyed it :)

    Cherokee - Haha, I knew that he died thanks to a few reviews that I had read...but I didn't know how. It was so sad :(
    Yeah, I don't know of anyone who knew anything about F1 before seeing this, either! You're one of a kind!
    It's going in my top 100, too.

    Ruth - I hope you enjoy it! It is awesome.

    Bonjour Tristesse - Thanks! And I think that it's bullshit that it can't compete. It should totally go for Best Editing!

    Scott - I'd be surprised if anyone didn't cry. It was so so sad.
    Yes, I did notice that. As you said, it didn't take anything away from the film!

  7. Even today, My heart sinks a little when I hear or see Senna's Last race mentioned somewhere. I have been Formula 1 Fan for many years now, and all these years I have been in constant awe of phenomenon that Senna was. I will definitely get to it immediately.

  8. Surprisingly, I didn't read any reviews for the film, I just heard good word from my dad when he went to see it, so he came along with me to see it at some late night screening thing.

    It definitely should be in your Top 100 - I was probably too reluctant to put it in mine because I had just seen it when I was fine tuning that list, but still, it is a one of a kind film.

    And hey, turns out that SDG is a F1 Fan - there goes my crown!

  9. For couple of Minutes, I did not realise what is happening here? What CROWN? Then I read her earlier comments.
    @Cherokee: Well, Sorry I guess. But, you can have your crown for now at least. I haven't seen it yet. :)

  10. SDG - It is an amazing film. I do hope you like it!

    Cherokee - I read a few, as I was curious to see what the fuss was about.
    It is a one of a kind film! You're exactly right.
    And yes, there goes your crown! But not technically...yet


You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.


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