Given the fact that one will often watch a documentary based on interest, it is hard for one who sees a documentary to give give it a totally impartial review. Therefore the truly great documentaries work to the same goal as any great writing. They bring out new found passion for things we’ve never even given thought to. And, just as Stieg Larsson can make us have a great interest in Sweden’s banking and judicial systems, so to can the movie Senna for someone who’d never even heard of him.
Now, Granted, I would consider myself a passive fan of F1. But in coming to my previous conclusion, I look to my brother and father. I went with them to see it this Friday, and walking in they knew sparse little about F1 or Ayrton Senna. But they walked out just as awestruck and impassioned as any of the F1 buffs who crowded the halls upon our departure, the hallmark of any good film – not just documentary.
The film follows the life of Ayrton Senna over the entirety of his career, from it’s ambitious beginning to it’s tragic end. But, the events of the film are not what make it so compelling. The power of the film rests on two things – the individual and the style.
The style of the film was singular, and in it we find a great way to tell a more visceral story of such a storied man. Most documentaries will feature a few glimpses of stock footage, overlaid in brief segments, to add context to filmed components such as dialogue or scene. Yet, senna takes a complete 180˚ turn. Almost none of the film is shot, deferring totally to impeccably edited stock footage. This is then brought to life with great bits from poignant interviews recorded more in the present day. The value of these samples is self-evident, giving careful insight to various events of senna’s life in a dialectic of hindsight.
The value of using well picked stock footage is also seen in how the film paints the picture of Ayrton Senna himself. In using film from both racing and moments in his personal life, we get a look into the life of a thoroughly interesting and respectable person. The film gives a look into the progression of Senna’s life and in it we can see a great example of enduring humility. Coming from a wealthy family and having a meteoric rise to become a three time record crushing F1 Grand Prix Champion would inflame the pride of many – but not senna. He was amazing in his ability to separate himself from his own fame, a trait so rare in the day of Lebron James. Though he may have been aggressive on the track, he was never incapable of shutting that intensity off when he took off his flame retardant racing suit. And it was in this humility that he became so well loved worldwide.
It comes as no surprise when we see that at the heart of this man we see a man of faith. In many of the interviews shown with senna, we see that God permeated so many of his conversations. He new he lived life on the edge, and that it was God who held him there.This passion for God is most well said in the sadly ironic quote across his tombstone
“Nothing can separate me from the love of God”
For it was in his fatal last race that a crash would bring him as close to God as he could ever hope to be.
Senna is out in theatres now. It was directed by Asif Kapadia & written by Manish Pandey