on 19 July 2011
Senna was touted as one of the movies of 2011 and one of the best sporting documentaries ever and it doesn't disappoint.
It tells the story of Brazilian Formula 1 legend Ayrton Senna's time in the sport. He arrived in Europe as an unknown go-karter but his talent was obvious and he soon joined Formula 1. He graduated from the small Toleman team to the more prestigious Lotus and finally to McLaren where he was a team mate of Alain Prost. They were the two best drivers at the time and their rivalry was so intense that they eventually stopped speaking to one another after many racing incidents between them.
The best parts of the movie are the brilliant race footage and the many interviews with Senna at various stages of his career. Senna was remarkably frank in describing his feelings about the internal politics of Formula 1. There is also great footage of pre-race drivers meetings. At these Senna wasn't slow in expressing his feelings at what he saw as the favouritism of the FIA authorities towards Prost.
All commentary and interviews are included as voice-over or sub-titles. There are no "talking heads".
Senna comes across as an unusual character for a Formula 1 driver. People such as McLaren boss Ron Dennis and chief F1 doctor Sid Watkins speak of what a great man he was, as well as being a great driver. There is plenty of footage of Senna's personal life, including his charitable work in Brazil and a fascinating clip from a Brazilian TV show where the blonde presenter unashamedly chats him up!
Unfortunately most people watching the movie will be aware of how tragically it ends. The fatal weekend at Imola is covered in depth from the death of Roland Ratzenberger in practice to on board footage of Senna's final lap during the race. The scenes in Brazil on the return of his body and during his funeral make it clear how important he was to ordinary Brazilians, at a time when they had few reasons to be proud of their country.
Senna is most definitely the "hero" of this movie and the story is told from his point of view. Perhaps the filmmakers could be accused of some bias of their own. However given the character of the man and his life story they can be forgiven for this.
A great movie for followers of motor sport as well as anyone with an interest in fascinating life stories.
on 12 July 2011
Quite possibly one of the greatest, most awe-inspiring film documentarys i have seen, certainly the best for a long time.
The way the movie is handled and researched, shot with dignity and respect but maintaining an engrossing tension, is immense and full credit to the makers. The footage of some of the actual racing is terrifying in an adrenaline fuelled way..Breath-taking stuff! The part where Senna over takes every other driver in the pouring rain at Monaco is something to behold, pure genius. It has footage from paticular positioned cameras i didnt even think existed back then.
The rivalry between Alain Prost and Ayrton was gripping stuff. Prost being the fighter, the competer against Senna's dignified, reserved but raw talent.
Ayrton Senna seemed like an emotional, sensitive human being and that is something, that publically at least, you rarely see in the world of sport. A humble, generous man fighting against a corrupt, money driven sport, that still rmains contrived to this day.
Music is added that really fits composed by a fellow brazillian.
It was frustration through all the corruption that killed Senna, well that and a steering wheel support piece going straight through the temple. A crying shame that makes you ponder lots of things like why they didnt postpone the race after Ratzenburger's death at qualifying. A must watch for all F1 fans but also for those people that want to see how to make a fantastic documentary about a dangerous sport.
This outstanding bio-pic about the life of three-times Formula One World Champion Ayrton Senna is an exemplary textbook study in documentary film-making. Regardless of whether or not you have any interest in motor racing or in Senna himself, this film really is one of the finest-ever examples of the genre you're ever likely to see.
All F1 fans know that Senna (full name Ayrton Senna de Silva) died on 1st May 1994 following a fatal crash in the Italian Grand Prix at San Morino, the last driver (to date, August 2012) to die in a F1 racing accident. The film pieces together archive footage tracing early life and go-karting success, obsession with driving and winning and later days of international super-stardom of this most talented and fearless driver. His career-long rivalry with cool-as-ice French driver Alain Prost is revealed in a direct and no-holds barred narrative containing some astounding unguarded, off-the-record moments of interaction between these two individuals of contrasting (and clashing) temperaments.
Senna's unique driving talent and personal modesty, the enormous impact his success had on popular sentiment in Brazil, his heartfelt religious convictions and the work and money he dedicated to the education of under-privileged children in his native land are all revealed. On the way we are shown rare peeks into confrontations at F1 pre-race drivers' meetings, and some of the F1 engineering innovations which made their way into mass-production vehicles - like traction control for example.
Overall this is a gripping, well-paced film which holds the attention throughout with never a dull moment. The choice to forego a voiceover-narrator and allow the archive film to speak for itself makes the film's impact on the viewer all the more powerful. Some of the driver's-eye-from-the-car camera-work during F1 races is genuinely edge-of-the-seat terrifying, and allows you to appreciate just what phenomenal speeds were and are involved.
If you appreciate good film-making with fine editing, regardless of the subject matter, you really should see this. If you are a student of film or aspiring film-maker then seeing and studying `Senna' - several times, not just once - is a must, and if you're a F1 fan you are gonna love it.
Five stars for excellence.
on 14 December 2011
It's difficult to say what hasn't already been said about this film already by the countless reviews. What I will say was I've never seen a film have such an incredible effect on a cinema audience. Everyone in the auditorium remaned seated until the end and everyone left in silence or tears. This is no ordinary documentary but then Senna was no ordinary Grand Prix driver.
There have been more successful drivers than Senna - Prost, Schumacher and Fangio. There have also been drivers as talented as Senna who have died before they took their final chequered flag such as Clark and Giles Villeneuve. Yet somehow Mr Senna, even when alive, had an aura of something unique about himself. This film successfully manages to capture just how unique he was and also how fantastic the racing was in the time of Senna's career.
The film is comprised entirely of F1 footage, never-before-seen behind the scenes video-ing and also home movies from the Senna family. Narration comes from interviews with Senna whilst he was alive, commentators at the time and also his peers, rivals and friends. There are no talking heads in the film, the audio is overlaid onto the stunning on-screen footage.
The story Senna's arrival in the UK, debut season at Toleman, his switch to Lotus, his time at McLaren and his ill-fated move to Williams. The Senna vs Prost rivalry, arguably the greatest sporting rivalry of all time, is covered in great deatail - albiet purely from Mr Senna's angle. The iron grip of FIA boss Mr Balestre is also covered, showing just how absurd the governing body of the sport was at the time. I wish, as another reviewer has mentioned, more time was spent on his stint at Lotus as he had some utterly brilliant drives there too.
A brilliant piece of film-making, I'd strongly recommend it to any F1 but I also think it easily has appeal for non-petrol heads too. I've shown the film to several friends who aren't fond of F1 and they thought it was incredible too.
on 23 November 2011
(Review is for the 2-Disc UK release)
I've been a Formula 1 fan since the mid-80s and recall being mesmerised watching Senna on TV in his Lotus days. I followed his career as he reached his zenith with McLaren winning 3 world championships till his untimely demise with Williams.
The documentary takes a similar path starting from Senna's karting days up to his death at Imola '94 but with the added spice of having rare footage. What I also liked about this documentary is that its not your usual "talking-head" format; instead the viewer watches seamless footage with commentary dubbed over the scenes.
As I mentioned the rare footage is simply stunning, such as the driver's pre-race safety briefing where Senna argues with then-FISA president Jean-Marie Balestre, Senna persuading the race steward to shift pole-position to the clean side of the track at Suzuka '90 (which was overruled by Balestre), Senna's brilliant drive in wet weather at Monaco '84, Estoril '85 in heavy rain to claim his 1st win, Interlagos '91 where he was stuck in sixth gear and the pain he went through after the race; there are many others which for me elevates this film to another level.
No film about Senna is complete without his main rival Alain Prost, and here we see how both drivers started off as team-mates in '88 with McLaren and subsequent fall-out culminating with Prost moving to Ferrari and that famous "shunt" at Suzuka '90.
The film also touches on Senna's personal side -- his faith to god, strong family-life and absolute dedication to winning.
I rate this film 5 stars but with slight apprehension for a few reasons: no footage of Senna during his British Formula 3 days where he honed his combative and aggressive driving style battling ex-F1 driver Martin Brundle; Senna's superb drive in the wet at Donington Park '93 was not featured; no mention of Senna's great duels with Nigel Mansell which I think warranted some footage (their battles was fierce, e.g. Mansell grabbed Senna by the throat at Spa '87 after they both tangled on the track, Barcelona '91 wheel-to-wheel on the main straight); lastly the director did not use legendary F1 commentator Murray Walker and Senna's closest team-mate Gerhard Berger to provide narration.
The 2nd disc has additional commentary on Senna in "talking-head" format from Prost, Ron Dennis and other F1 commentators; I found the interview with John Bisignano of ESPN interesting as I had never heard of him before (Murray Walker & James Hunt were the usual commentators in my part of the world) -- at the end of the interview he was visibly sad of Senna's death. I expected Murray Walker, Gerhard Berger, Martin Brundle, Michael Schumacher and maybe Bernie Ecclestone to be interviewed in the 2nd disc but sadly were missing.
The end-credits has the famous clip of Senna rushing out of his car to save Eric Comas when the latter crashed heavily at Spa '92 -- for me this act of bravery shows that Senna was the complete racing driver incorporating the paradox of an aggressive and sometimes ruthless driving style but yet endangers his own life to save the life of another driver.
on 18 May 2011
This is a great docufilm, it really touches on some of Sennas greatest and most controversial moments in Formula 1, from his stunning performance at Monaco in 1984, his epic 1st victory in the pouring rain of Estoril to those 3 monumental Japanese Grand Prix races in 1988, 1989 & 1990. It also gives you an idea on just what a massive sporting icon Ayrton Senna was all around the world.
For me however the best part of the film was the rare footage of the drivers meetings before races, I've never seen these before and that for me alone was worth the purchase of this DVD. It showed how Senna wore his heart on his sleeve at all times fighting for what he thought was right and just how badly he was treated by Jean Marie Balestre, the then president of the FIA.
Another feature on the main disc is that there is a complete commentary in English from the makers of this docufilm. Its certainly worth listening to their thoughts and views on Senna and how they went about making this film and using the best and most poignant footage that they possibly could.
Also included is a 2nd bonus DVD disc which contains interviews with F1 race commentators from the 1980's along with insight from Ron Dennis and Alain Prost. Some of the comments are absolutely spell binding and are certainly worth watching. You also get your usual cinema trailers from Japan and other places around the world.
Going back to the docufilm itself, the only negative point I could find is that in my opinion it could do with being about 45 minutes longer! Some of Sennas later battles were not really covered (eg Monaco in 1992 with Nigel Mansell or that race at Donnington in 1993 where he literally destroyed the whole field).
As mentioned by the previous reviewer the subtitles on the main DVD are only available in Italian, its a shame as quite a few of the interviews are spoken in Portugese so unless you can read Italian you dont really understand what's being said. Then again I suppose thats my fault for purchasing the DVD from Italy and not waiting until its officially released in the UK! Luckily you can change the film's language to original (ie English) instead of Italian dubbing over in the options screen so its not all bad. The bonus disc isn't an issue as you get the choice of chosing English text right from the beginning.
Nevertheless I cant rate this double DVD highly enough and if you are a Senna fan get it as soon it comes out or take a trip to the cinema in June. I really cant wait to see it on a big screen :0)
on 30 May 2011
The first F1 race I ever watched was the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. Yes, the first Grand Prix I ever watched was the race where the great Ayrton Senna died tragically. What I saw that day has stayed with me over the years; consequently, I have watched countless documentaries about Senna's life on and off the track, but none ever seemed to do him justice. Then a few days ago I came across this documentary, bought it and then watched it one night with friends.
The documentary follows his life over the space of a decade: his early karting years, F1 championship wins, rivalries and his eventual untimely death. The documentary has candid interviews with Senna as well as many other F1 greats. It also has a lot of unseen footage such as pre-race meetings and moments from Senna's private life. Senna's death and the cause of it are also looked at in great detail. I do warn you though many of the people who watched this part of the documentary with me were in tears by the end of it, myself included.
This is a truly remarkable documentary and is a must watch for all Senna and/or F1 fans.
This is not a dramatisation of Ayrton Senna, it is more a documentary than a feature film as it is 100% true, uses real footage throughout, and contains voiceovers from various people who are seen throughout the movie from the world of motor sport and sports journalists too. I expect that hardcore Senna fans will have seen a lot of this before, via places such as YouTube but for someone like me, 98% of the footage was unseen and new, so that was good. Being that the footage mainly dates from the late 1980's to mid 1990's, it isn't the best quality but even on the large cinema screens, its more than watchable and looks very good on screen. Yes, it's grainy but it just adds to the time and authenticity of the piece, and I think it comes across very well. Some of the footage is better than others, but its just atmospheric, and I liked the unpredictability of it in that sense.
The documentary really aims to look at the man behind the racing driver name of Ayrton Senna that a lot of people know. We see Ayrton speak a lot about his religion and God, and how important it is to him to respect that and how much of a part that played in his life and his career. He was a deeply philosophical man, yet had the grit and determination to succeed whatever the cost in his job. However, the film does show a more "human" side to the driving machine that is Senna. A great example is when his car flips and lands him head-first in the gravel pit, serving as a stark reminder to Senna he is just as likely to get hurt as anyone else in the sport, but it takes him having a relatively serious accident to fully comprehend this fact. Senna's facial expressions speak a thousand words, and watching him, you can almost feel every emotion, his face gives everything away and that in turn adds a whole new level to the film - I've never seen Senna in this light before, and the movie really highlights what kind of man Senna was - kind-hearted, determined, giving (he gave a lot of money to charity at home in Brazil) but most of all ambitious and determined to succeed.
The rivalry between Senna and Prost takes up a lot of the early movie, mainly because that is what helped to shape Senna's career in Formula One. When he joined Maclaren and partnered Prost, everyone knew that both men desperately wanted to win the World Championship title again, but nobody could forsee just how far these men would go to fulfill their dreams. We see footage of both men speaking about each other, the effect this had not only on them, but the teams and the sport as a whole too. The vitriolic words that come from Prost about Senna are quite shocking but goes to show how deeply the men were entrenched in their dislike for each other and determination to out-do each other on the track. Senna, however, always seems careful never to completely bad-mouth, doing it in a more clever and roundabout than Prost delivers! As well as looking at this rivalry, the movie does take a look at the behind-the-scenes politics of Formula One, from the awful FIA director Jean-Marie Balestre and his shocking decisions regarding the disclipling of Senna, and other questionable areas behind the scenes at Formula One.
I don't normally mention a sound track when I am reviewing a film unless a particular song really moved me, but on this occasion I have to applaud the entire musical score. It is mainly composed by Antonio Pinto, someone I had not heard of until I googled his name for the purpose of this review, but the man is a genius when it comes to the soundtrack he has created for this movie. He captures the raw emotion, the excitement, the thrill of the race, and the tragedy of Senna's death in a few instrumental pieces of music that enhance every single scene they appear in. It was a joy to listen to this soundtrack accompany this film, and I certainly hope the film-makers look to release this fantastic musical score at some point as I am sure anyone who has seen this film will be interested in hearing it again and again.
The film goes through Senna's career at Formula One, and eventually hits on the fateful day on 1st May 1994, at Imola, where Senna is to race his final race and tragically end his life. There was something very odd about watching a clearly troubled man on-screen, with the audience knowing what is going to happen to him, yet he has no idea. Yet, I couldn't help but feel watching this that Senna did have a sense of foreboding about this race, and this just added to my unsettled feeling. I almost didn't want to watch but found myself glued to the screen, heart-beating fast. I'm not ashamed to say I shed a tear over this whole section of the movie, it's incredibly moving, and when you have spent almost 2 hours getting to know Ayrton Senna in a way you probably haven't before, the now infamous crash takes on a very different stance when watched in this context.. it feels incredibly sad and the entire cinema seemed on edge and moved by what they saw.
Something that spelt out to me the power this movie had was the credits. Usually, the moment the credits roll on a film , 99% of the audience is on its feet and rushing for the door. When the credits rolled for this film, no one moved. We all wanted to watch the repeated scenes from the film playing alongside the credits, and it took the lights eventually going up and the Vue advertisements beginning on the screen again for us to begin to vacate the cinema. The film definitely had an effect on us, and hours after watching it, I am still thinking about the things Senna said, and the turmoil he was going through at the Imola race weekend, and wishing he had decided not to race, as Frank Williams had fully expected him not to.
I cannot recommend this film highly enough, whether you are a motor sport fan or not. As I mentioned, I'm certainly not but I was glued to the screen for the duration, which is just over 2 hours long. The audience in my screen were laughing along at some of Senna's funnier moments which did come quite frequently, and one perfect scene involving Alain Prost walking in front of a Brazilian crowd after Senna's first home grand prix victory with the most perfect subtitling (I shan't spoil it for you here!). We all held our breath as the on-board camera on Senna's car shows us his last moments around the Imola track, and shed a tear at the moving funeral footage, his sister Vivianne clutching Senna's helmet being one of the most moving images of the lot. There isn't as much race footage as some may expect, instead focussing on interviews etc, but for me the balance was just right. This is a superb documentary, and for once, I don't mind admitting Jeremy Clarkson was 100% right when he branded this unmissable. Truly fantastic.
Ayrton Senna was a sporting presence who was captivating to watch and became a sporting hero to many, even to those who only had a casual interest in Formula 1. This documentary attempts to portray the man behind the legend and give us a glimpse at what it was which made the name Senna as big as the sport itself.
Starting with his F1 debut season in 1984, talking heads provide the unanimous conclusion that Senna was such an intuitive driver that he was able to out-perform the car he was in - managing to achieve speeds and positions beyond what would normally be expected. During his first ever Monaco race in a Toleman which should have languished at the back of the pack, he amazed the viewers by carving through the field, catching race leader Prost and passing him as the race was stopped. The stoppage was a technicality which many felt unfairly robbed this savvy, young driver of a well deserved first win. Such an obvious talent was soon to be snatched up by a bigger team and after a year with Lotus, Senna found his battles with Prost continuing - but now as team partners in 1986 at McLaren.
After covering his entry into the sport this documentary focuses on the Prost/Senna rivalry. It is used as a pivotal device to tell the story of Senna and understandably so - it really was genuinely dramatic at times. 'Senna versus Prost' was good for TV ratings and although this is hardly an unbiased telling of events, Prost provides a lot of input and isn't made out to be the villain. The Prost / Senna battle wasn't always pretty, it saw the first time a team appealed against a decision made in favour of one of their own drivers (though it was against their other!). Suzuka became a theatre to their on-track conflicts and two controversial contacts between the team mates generate fierce debate even today. The way events were dealt with introduced Senna to a side of Formula 1 which he struggled with initially, the inner wrangling and politics of the sport which is depicted by his anger and frustration over the decisions made by officials. Familiar faces from the sport such as Ron Dennis can be seen arguing Senna's cause, it's an interesting insight into a side of F1 I'd never seen before. Footage of Senna shows he was visibly upset at being, disqualified, fined, and "treated like a criminal". This film opens up the sport to show us the driver's meetings, the footage is refreshingly candid and you appreciate that these are men with genuine concerns and criticism of some rules rather than simply cool and composed drivers above any sense of danger.
We are also treated to race footage and video from Senna's on-board camera which really gives you a sense of the incredible speeds achieved during race conditions. Monaco seems to benefit from the best quality footage, but that's always the case. I've watched lots of race footage from the sixties and seventies and the spectacle of Monaco always attracts the cameras more than any other race event. There's not much footage of other stars of the day and Piquet and Mansell fans will only see fleeting glimpses of their racing heroes - but this is ultimately a film about Senna so it's not really unexpected!
There's some amateur footage and plenty of archived TV footage piecing together the life of Ayrton Senna, through interviews we see a charismatic character who is often emotional. The world of F1 has changed a lot since the '80s and '90s but much it remains the same; hearing Jackie Stewart interviewing Senna about his controversial number of contacts with other cars, it seems very relevant to the similar argument around Lewis Hamilton today. Picture quality of the videos varies widely but it doesn't take away from the film, if anything the scratchy segments and home VCR recordings make this a more intimate project to watch.
For many, watching Senna was spiritual experience. He was a religious man and makes frequent references to God, going as far as to say he could feel his presence and even see him when he raced. The documentary makes a point of noting that this made some people uncomfortable, perhaps Senna's grip on reality was compromised by his beliefs, maybe such thoughts were dangerous as they could lead him to believe he was almost immortal. It might be a load of nonsense - but it makes for a great story and adds to the legend of a driver who often seemed to have a supernatural ability to control his car. Something I had been aware of but never really thought about, was the level of adulation Senna had in his home country. Brazil was a country suffering from mass poverty and political problems. Among the social and economic suffering Senna was a national hero who became a focus for hope and through him Brazil could salvage some sort of national pride.
You know how the film must end, the 1994 race weekend at Imola is the darkest in the sports history, but having Senna as a constant presence throughout the film and narrating through old interviews - it starts to feel like a running retrospective from his point of view and it's a sobering moment when you come back to reality and realise that he is no longer with us. The documentary explores his death but doesn't focus too much on trying to provide any explanation for the crash - it wouldn't be appropriate, this is a celebration of his life, not an investigation into his death. Instead of details about the technicalities it shows us the impact it had on his peers, and on his nation.
In a nutshell: A fairly balanced documentary which is well constructed and succeeds in bring to the screen the story of the Senna's Formula 1 career. Instead of hearing the name Senna and immediately thinking about his tragic death in '94, this film will make sure that his name instead evokes visions of his first ever home win when we nursed a sick McLaren to victory, gripping the steering so hard that he was in agony as a result and had to have his hands prised off manually - the spectators went wild and Senna screaming in delight infront of his home crowd packs the biggest emotional punch of this great documentary.
If I weren't an F1 fan then I'd still enjoy the human story behind the legend and probably give the film 4 stars - but as a big fan of the sport I found this a compelling watch which captured the emotive and dramatic side of a driver who is admireed as much today as he was when he was behind the wheel.
on 4 April 2011
A demi-God to Brazil, a legend and hero to me.
Being a Senna fan since I was a child, now a 35 year old adult. This may come across as a little "bias".
But this was one of the best films I have seen in the last 10 years.
It was well put together and honest...though it didn't show much of Senna's "dark side" we all knew he had.
It is not a film trying to prove how good/bad he was. It's showing how dedicated, passionate and humble he was.
You don't have to be a Senna or F1 fan to enjoy this. You just have to enjoy good documentary making.
I thought I knew everything about the man, but this film showed a lot of behind the scenes stuff I didn't know existed. Footage I have never seen in the many years of being a fan.
The 89/90 Prost/Senna battle was well covered in this film and revealed a few facts I was not aware of. Mainly the "favourable" FIA rulings lead by a fellow country-man of Prost.
Seeing the driver's meetings where everyone was in agreement with Senna over "certain" rules and regulations and he didn't even say a word. Yet the FIA "boss" was clearly being bais and "helping" Prost win.
Great to watch and see what really happend behind the scenes.
Senna's 91 win in Brazil took my breath away. Again, while I knew it was tough on him. 7 laps stuck in 6th gear...in the rain and he still won. Senna did the impossible and pushed a car beyond anything anyone knew it could do.
Seeing this in the documentary and hearing about how bad Senna was after the race, fainting in the car, the pain on his face as he was removed, the muscle cramps. Then watching him struggle on the podium to lift the trophy.
Nevermind his records and championships. This single race must have been his crowning achievement.
A true hero.
Hearing Senna talk about how he is at the peak of his career pre-Imola and he had more in him to give...but knowing what was to come.
I was welling up.
The ONLY part of this film I could not watch was EVERYTHING from Imola 94.
I watched upto Barrichello being interviewd with Senna. How young and nervous he looked.
I have seen the events of Imola 94 only once, when I watched them live. Never have been able to watch anything of that race since. Not just due to Senna's death, but the whole race weekend is hard for me to watch.
Barrichello crashing, Roland Ratzenberger dying, the crash at the start of the race and Senna's death. It was/is too much to take.
I really want to watch it as I know there is footage of Senna I have not seen and more behind the scenes stuff...but I just can't. Just watching the few seconds of the track, showing Tamburello corner and seeing that Kronenberg billboard, that's as far as I can go.
So I had to skip past the whole Imola part.
Then hearing close friends talk about Senna afterwards during the end of the documentary.
I loved every second I watched of this flick and winner of the World Cinema Audience Award for documentaries at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.
What an amazing and fitting film.
A real tribute to a true legend and an inspiration not just to Brazil...but the world.
It's a surprising film even for a die-hard Senna fan like myself. There is so much famous and infamous footage not included, which surprised me. But on the other had it made way for a lot of previously unseen/unknown footage. Which, if I'm honest, I prefered to see.
It's a film that even the biggest Senna fan will be amazed at. Plus a great introduction to none Senna fans.
It's an eye opener.
This really is one of the best films in the last decade...and Universal are cutting it for it's North America/European release this summer. From 162 minute down to 104 minute.
It's a disgrace.
Please do watch this film, but make sure it's the full 206 minute version.