Thursday, 23 June 2011


It’s now twice in as many weeks that I have ventured to the Queen’s Film Theatre - a pastime that I am quickly becoming accustomed to.  After the brilliance of Julia’s Eyes last week it was now the turn of Senna.

I should probably put into context my knowledge of Formula 1 before I review the film.  I joined the sport just in time to watch Hakkinen win his first championship and enjoyed another year of success with him before the five long years of Schumacher dominance ensued.  The sport should be thankful for the arrival of Alonso and all the success, drama and controversy the driver brings with him at least once per season. Schumacher’s achievements cannot be disputed but Formula 1 was as boring as hell during his reign. 

It is clear from the above that I am a relatively new fan of the sport and the Senna era was very much before my time but I know enough about F1 to appreciate just how great the man was.

Senna follows the career of Ayrton Senna from his karting days right through to his time in F1.  It isn’t merely a clip show of cheesy footage - the documentary is put together really well and interweaves onboard footage, news reports and family home videos to great effect.

The film ramps up the tension during the Senna/Prost rivalry of the early nineties to the extent that even those who experienced events first hand wont fail to be sucked in.  The drama was obviously unscripted and it made this section of the film absolutely riveting.

As well as the racing action we are given an insight to the politics of the sport and Senna’s reaction to this was anger, frustration and an attitude of let racers be racers.  There is a great scene where he is arguing with the FIA in the drivers briefing over the lack of runoff areas and it was quite entertaining to see him gather the support of the rest of the field.  Senna won that battle convincingly. 
We are shown just how loved the man was in Brasil and the passion and love he held for his country also shone through.  I didn’t know how deep his faith in God ran and he was very vocal and honest in his interviews about God’s role in his life and career.  There are few people who could pull this off without appearing pretentious or even false but with Senna everything about him came across as very genuine.  With his faith came equal amounts of charm and there was a great cheeky sense of humour hidden behind high levels of intensity.

Watching the film was an emotional experience as every time he spoke about how short his career would be in comparison with his life I welled up and when the caption of Imola 1994 came up on screen I was in pieces. 

Probably the darkest and most tragic weekend in the sports history culminated in the deaths of two racers the latter being Senna himself.  It was strange to watch just how uncomfortable he was that weekend in the car and after the death of Ratzenberger you almost got the feeling that Senna knew something else was going to go wrong.

You have to give the Senna family credit as they did not shy away from allowing harrowing footage of the accident, the doctors trying to revive Ayrton and the funeral to be included.  This was as absorbing to watch as it was traumatic. 
As the funeral procession travelled through the streets of Brazil thousands of people were there to pay their respects.  It was a remarkable sight.

I saw Senna in a sold out screen and for the last ten/fifteen minutes there was an unusual amount of shuffling and shifting in seats from an absorbed audience struggling to keep control of their emotions.  I have never experienced this watching a film before and I doubt it will be repeated for a long time. 

The filmmakers did a nice job of tying up the Senna/Prost rivalry at the end of the film.  They were fair in showing that Senna too was flawed but Prost was very much portrayed as the villain of the piece.  Prost was shown carrying the casket at the funeral several times and they made sure to highlight the fact that he is a Trustee of Senna’s charity.  It was a nice touch as it showed that a great rivalry came with great respect.

The film ended on a solemn note at the funeral however this was swiftly followed by a little montage showing that although the premature death was tragic there was also a great life worth celebrating. 

Senna is an absolutely breathtaking documentary that will affect fans and non fans in exactly the same way - it is a truly remarkable story.

There has already been chat of Senna winning the Oscar for best documentary and it will be thoroughly deserved as documentary or not Senna is an amazing piece of film-making. 

It will take something truly special to stop Senna from being the film of the year.  10/10.


  1. Wow sounds like a wonderful sports documentry, I'm going to have to remember to look for it whenever it comes out here.

  2. I was at the QFT screening last night too. I endorse your every word. A simply superb film.

  3. This is getting good raps around and about. I remember Senna's death well and was really shocked. He was one of the true F1 greats. With you on Shu...dominated yes but it was totally boring viewing. I think any great needs a good rival as a test and benchmark.

  4. Daniel - according to IMDB you lot get it in August. I really hope you get to see it.

    Anonymous - Thanks for reading! :-D. I will be at the QFT more often as I love it!

    Brent - His greatest really shone through in the film which thoroughly deserves all its good raps! Luckily the sport is in the middle of a strong period of competition so it's very watchable at the minute

  5. what it be a Irish girl be not knowing this the answer be here now that ye be thingen of that.