Posted by: kcgadiyar | November 6, 2011

Documentary Review: Senna

I started watching Formula-1 in 1995 and following it religiously in 1996, so the Schumacher/Ferrari combination is the one i consider to be the greatest. However, many people claim that the only reason Schumacher was so successful was that he never had to actually go head-to-head with Senna. In fact, most debates about who was the greatest F-1 driver of all time devolve into a shouting match between Schumacher and Senna supporters (If Vettel can have a couple more good seasons, he may join the discussion as well). Not having been a F-1 fan in the Senna era, when i had the opportunity to watch the documentary on Senna by Asif Kapadia i was excited. Finally, i get to see why people say he is the greatest of all time.

This one is good, really good.

The documentary does not waste any time.. the first thing seen in it is the 1984 Monaco GP when Senna driving in a Toleman (which i gathered is pretty similar to the Lotus or the Toro Rosso teams currently) managed to overhaul 14 riders in the wet and was about to overtake Prost when the race was red-flagged for heavy rain. This one race sets up everything we will see covered in more detail in the rest of the movie, the rivalry with Prost, the Politics of Formula One, how Senna was a natural racer and most of all, Senna’s dominance in the rain. (As an aside, it is interesting to see how the best drivers of any era are considered “rainmeisters” – Senna, Schumi and now Vettel)

The movie also goes into a lot of detail on Senna’s early years racing and his affluent background. It also shows us how Senna became an icon in Brazil on par with the footballing stars, and probably best of all it shows us just how much that fame and being an icon meant to Senna. The access this documentary got to F-1 videos as well to Senna’s team and personal videos is just brilliant, it truly feels like an all-access documentary.

The best parts of the documentary (as is to be expected) come from the Senna-Prost rivalry. It shows us how the 2 of them came on the same team in 1988 with mutual respect which quickly eroded over the next 2 years. The 2 main incidents, namely the collisions between the two of them in Japan in 1989 and 1990 are covered in extensive detail. The only downside here is that Prost come off as a cold, calculating villain. Of course, the movie also shows us how when Senna quit McLaren in 1993, Ron Dennis, Senna and Prost finally put the past behind them and became friends again.

Some other moments which stick with the viewer are the appearance by Senna on a Brazilian TV Show for Christmas where the female host of the show kisses Senna and wishes him a happy 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1993 and then stops. Fans of F-1 know exactly why this comes off in a really unsettling manner.

Coming to the question everyone is probably thinking about – Yes, they do show the crash. They also show Barrichello and Ratzenberger’s crashes as well. They do not show replays of the crash in the movie though. You see the stunned reactions from all the drivers and team principals as well. The movie never gets into judgment mode i.e. telling us who was responsible for the crash, was it the car, the changed safety regulations for 1994, the team sending Senna out even though his mind was not in it on the raceday or anything else. They just tell us the aftermath and leave the question dangling, but neither asked nor answered.

All in all, this is one of the best sports documentaries ever… it may be one of the best documentaries ever. Even people who have no idea who Senna was can watch it and like the movie. Could it have been better? Maybe. There are no comments from Schumacher included, seeing how Schumi was just metres behind Senna when the crash happened, his inputs to that scene could have been included (in fact Schumacher is completely absent from the movie altogether) . Also, Senna’s early years are glossed over here with the movie effectively jumping to 1988 right after the 84 Monaco GP. But those are small issues which don’t add or take away anything from the movie itself.

Overall 5/5, must-see for F-1 fans, recommended watch for non-fans. This one is definitely worth the time.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: