RETROSPECTIVE FILM REVIEW: ASIF KAPADIA’S SENNA

Comprising entirely of archive, stock, and exhilarating raw on-board footage, Working Title’s Senna eschews any sense of soapboxing in order to simply celebrate the life of the Brazilian motor-racing champion Ayrton Senna, who died during the San Marino Grand Prix in 1994.

Of course, archive footage can still be manipulative if stitched together in a particularly cynical way, however this absorbing documentary seeks only to tell the story of an athlete, humble yet ambitious, from his early days in go-karting, to the Formula One era and all the political wrangling that went with.The sport’s plentiful supply of race footage enables the film to read much more as a real-time drama through its jerky immediacy than as a meticulously constructed piece of post-event rumination; we even stay with Senna’s cockpit camera for a whole lap before the tragic accident unfolds in front of us – it’s shocking, sad and, achingly, puts as right at the centre of it all.

On reflection, Senna‘s story, from Ayrton’s eager beginnings, through his success and generous philanthropy, and culminating in the extraordinary scenes of a bereft and inconsolable Brazil after his death, quietly and poignantly speaks volumes about the nature of celebrity – the showmen and our heroes.

Words: Ash Verjee