Monday, April 23, 2012


We watched last year's celebrated documentary on Ayrton Senna last night.

As the most casual of F1 fans (I watch a race or two per season, if that) I remember being unaffected by the news of his death back in 1994. But to hardcore fans of F1 it was a seminal moment - one of those 'what were you doing when you heard the twin towers had fallen' type events.

The documentary made excellent use of the fact that F1 is so damn popular and has been for so long that it's drivers are obsessively filmed and recorded from the moment they attempt to qualify for their first race.

In Senna's case, it was a real riches to plutocracy story as his family were wealthy and could afford colour video and film equipment to record his childhood and early exploits racing carts.

All this footage meant that the film really was a film - there were very few 'talking heads' chots - instead we had speech over footage. It's a very simple idea, one that the French film industry has been using for about 100 years, but still quite rare in documentaries. perhaps documentary makers feel an obligation to film and show the people they interview.

The other surprise for me was how much 'behind the scenes' type footage there was. Some of the most fascinating scenes were in the drivers meetings with F1 and race officals prior to every Grand Prix. Conducted in bad simple English, the atmosphere is tense, the officials defensive, and the drivers as sullen and resentful as teenagers. 

All in all it was a fascinating film about a complex man who combined a rather naive belief in justice and humanity with a complex interior and simple (perhaps recklessly so) faith in god. 

As we cynically observed at the end, god rewarded this devotion by impaling Senna's head on a suspension arm at 150 mph.



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