REVIEW: Senna

5 07 2015

SennaI saw Ron Howard’s “Rush,” a film fictionalizing a storied Formula 1 rivalry, and found no problems following it or being (marginally) entertained by it.  Ditto the F1 documentary “Weekend of a Champion,” which amounts to little more than Roman Polanski following around driver Jackie Stewart.  I thought it was fascinating enough to stay awake at the screening in Cannes, which is actually a pretty big feat.

So, objectively, there is no reason I should not be able to connect with Asif Kapadia’s documentary “Senna,” which presents the story of legendary F1 driver Ayrton Senna.  Yet I never found an entry point in the film. For someone rather unversed in the sport like myself, this story proved rather impenetrable.

I suppose hardcore fans would probably praise the film because of my disdain, glad “Senna” does not pander to the uninitiated.  Kapadia constructs the film, which follows Senna’s rise to the top and its tragic ending, solely from archival footage and pre-existing interviews.  No talking heads, no perspective presented with the benefit of hindsight.  In other words, he tells the story entirely in the present tense – a true rarity for a documentary.

The structural ambition is commendable, but it also serves to limit the audience. Anyone who needs to know how Formula 1 operates or why Senna mattered gets left in the dust by Kapadia.  C2stars