Far more than just fan fod­der

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Movies - LEIGH PAATSCH sen­namovie.co.uk Opens State Cinema on Oc­to­ber 13

THE best doc­u­men­taries not only draw their sub­jects in fine de­tail, they also draw the fas­ci­na­tion and re­spect of view­ers who could not have cared less about those sub­jects be­fore. Take bril­liant new doco Senna as a case in point.

Even if you have no knowl­edge of For­mula One mo­tor rac­ing – let alone a pass­ing in­ter­est – the film still cap­ti­vates, in­forms and con­nects in a re­mark­able way.

This is one of the few sports-themed pro­files wor­thy of be­ing men­tioned in the same breath as the un­touch­able Muham­mad Ali doco When We Were Kings.

In spite of Ayr­ton Senna’s short life – it is no spoiler to make men­tion of his death at 34 dur­ing the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix – the film­mak­ers have an im­mense amount of ter­ri­tory to cover. Much of this is be­cause of the com­plex make-up of Senna the man.

The Brazil­ian ace was a cu­ri­ously or­gan­ised col­lec­tion of con­tra­dic­tions, all of which worked to­gether to make him the com­plete driver. And ar­guably marked him as fated for an early exit from this world.

To his peers on the track, Senna in full flight pro­voked equal parts awe and angst.

He could see – and travel through – gaps in race traf­fic that most would not classify as gaps. In­ten­tional con­tact be­tween ve­hi­cles? Not a prob­lem. Not even at 300km/ h.

Senna was a hope­less ro­man­tic when it came to be­ing the best driver in the world.

How­ever, the po­lit­i­cal nous needed to stay on the right side of F1 of­fi­cial­dom cost him many grands prix and at least one driv­ers’ cham­pi­onship.

Though he was a devil for the high life away from F1, be­hind the wheel he truly be­lieved ( as he con­tro­ver­sially stated af­ter a land­mark vic­tory) ‘‘ God is be­side me when I drive’’.

As a con­trast to the heroic light in which Senna is por­trayed, much is made in the doco of his fierce ri­valry with French cham­pion Alain Prost.

While he is de­picted as a schem­ing prag­ma­tist up against Senna’s creative ge­nius, Prost’s con­tri­bu­tions to the film are gen­er­ous, open and telling.

Con­sid­er­ing we all know how the doc­u­men­tary will end, the fi­nal act of Senna is still grip­ping and mov­ing view­ing.

Plau­dits must go to Bri­tish di­rec­tor Asif Kapadia and his team for the job they have done. Not only did they get Senna’s amaz­ing life story right, but they also steered away from the stan­dard short­cuts so many sports do­cos in­evitably take.

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