The best sports movies aren’t really about sport, but people.
Asif Kapadia’s documentary about three-time Formula 1 champion Ayrton Senna is about both.
A swashbuckling defender of fellow drivers’ safety who didn’t care about his own, Senna was a folk hero uncomfortable with his playboy lifestyle when his Brazilian countrymen faced poverty. And he was a driver who channelled his charisma into his instinctive, no-brakes wheel technique.
Kapadia ditches any backstory, narration or talking heads – the only new material is a handful of voiceover interviews, used sparingly for context and atmosphere – instead composing the film from archive footage.
And whether making a stand in pre-race drivers’ briefings (a coup of neverseen- before footage) or careering around rain-slicked corners in terrifying car-o-vision, Senna rewards that choice.
Some critics found Kapadia’s hero worship too unwavering, his portrait of arch rival Alain Prost too cartoonish. That’s missing the point: Senna is Amadeus on wheels, Prost his Salieri.
The structure resembles a live race, its full-throttle pace only pausing for game-changing pitstops in his career. Until that fateful weekend in Imola, when Kapadia slows to near real-time and, for one devastating moment, the sport and the person are locked in a tragic photo finish.
Sport & Auto
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