Senna

Director: Asif Kapadia
Starring: Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost
Runtime: 106 mins
Rating: ***

To refer to Asif Kapadia as the director of Senna is in many ways misleading. Leaving behind him a wealth of archive footage Senna can be said to have narrated his own life, and so Kapadia has not had to shoot a single frame of this movie. Rather, then, he has curated of this biopic: taking hundreds of hours of footage and compiling a selection into a tight narrative.

The film is fashioned entirely from this archive footage and layered with sound-bites from those who either knew Senna personally or professionally. Kapadia incorporates footage of Senna’s racing career as well as footage documenting his home life, allowing for a well rounded portrait which addresses both the public and private aspects of the man seamlessly.

Occasionally the movie falls into the trap of defying Senna: portraying him as a Christ-like figure able to use his belief in God to push beyond the limits of human performance. This deification is made at the expense of Senna’s rival Prost, who is vilified in the process. As uncomfortable as this tendency to bias may be, the presentation of so much archive footage which explicitly dramatises the burgeoning relationship between Senna and Prost makes sure that a wholly dichotomous portrayal of the relationship never really oversteps itself or takes too many liberties.

The documentary presents Senna as a man who is driven, enduring, endeavouring, fascinating: a man whose steely determination and visionary qualities enabled him to achieve. Kapadia focuses on the qualities of Senna which make him an outstanding individual as well as an outstanding sportsman.

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