6 Feb


He came. He crashed. He conquered.

Senna (Dir. Asif Kapadia) is the astounding documentary about Ayrton Senna, the Brazilian Formula 1 racing driver who after winning the World Championship three times crashed to his death in 1994 at the youthful age of 34.

Despite being a Formula 1 fan, or at least enough to choose its company on a rainy Sunday afternoon, I had not heard of Ayrton and the tragedy that ended his life before this film screeched its way into cinemas in 2010. However doing a small bit of research and discovering these sorrowing facts before viewing the film had no effect on its potency.

Put together using a mixture of Formula 1 behind the scenes/racing footage and home videos, it shows the beginnings of Ayrton’s career as a single-seat karting champion after his move to the UK in 1981, his progression into F1 with Lotus with whom he gained his first podium position (second place) at the Monaco Grand Prix 1984, his transfer to the McLaren team in 1988 and his relationship with both the politics of the sport and his McLaren teammate, Alain Prost.


The film is made to feel very much like a race. Much like commentators, the friends and family who are interviewed for the film are only ever heard not seen, and the dramatic fast-paced edits add to the intensity of a portrayal of a life full of drama. The racing footage is used skillfully and the back-stage images speak for themselves in terms of watching a man’s career being controlled by others and jeopardized by his reluctance to become involved in the sports politics.

It is easy to assign substantial relevance to some footage when we look at it in hindsight, such as Senna’s facial expressions on the day of the fatal race and his sisters proclamation that he read scripture from the Bible that morning which said he would ‘meet God’, but really all it comes down to being an eerie, all be it extremely eerie, coincidence as the footage simply aligns itself nicely with the subject matter.

So much seemed to be against Ayrton Senna but much like his home country of Brazil which faced huge poverty and civil uprising throughout his career, he never gave up the fight. In the face of adversity, of politics and of possible impending death, he raced on. The film celebrates the life of a man who touched an entire generation and who’s legacy continues through a foundation set up by his sister Viviane Senna aiming to provide young children and teenagers the skills to develop their full potential as people and future professionals (interestingly now partly advised by Alain Prost). After his death in ’94 serious safety advancements have been made in Formula 1, including improved crash barriers and major cuts to engine powers, and as the film states in its ending titles, there have been no fatalities in the sport since that year.


Whether you are a Formula 1 fan or not, this film is not to be missed. Senna remains an inspiration long after his death and Kapadia’s film is by far the most perfectly crafted documentary I have seen thus far.

Forever Young. Forever Fast. Forever Champion.

One Response to “Senna”


  1. afewgoodfilmreviews - May 29, 2013

    […] the same magazine such as ‘Shame’, ‘Star Trek: Into Darkness’ and ‘Senna‘, it further justifies my reasoning for not having a star rating on my blog. The field of […]

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