“Senna” movie: an F1 Fanatic’s opinion

Guest article

Here in Britain we won’t get to see “Senna” – the film documentary on the life of Ayrton Senna – until June next year.

The film has already opened in Japan and is arriving in Brazil at present. F1 Fanatic reader Robert York (who posts as Yukirin Boy) has seen the film in Tokyo and wrote in to share his verdict on the movie:

Update: Manish Pandey, the writer of “Senna”, responds to Robert in the comments.

First, I think anyone who who enjoys motor racing would enjoy the movie.

The film, as I think you are aware is a collection of interviews with Senna and other footage, most of which we haven’t seen before and interspersed with some great film of some of the bigger races in Senna’s career. Seeing 1980s or 1990s in-car footage on a big screen is fantastic.

Compared to today’s in-car shots the quality is obviously poorer but, whether it is the screen size or the much greater amount of movement of the car it is raw, dramatic and much more special.

The story of Senna’s career is basically told by Ayrton himself. The film gives a pretty straight narrative from F1 debut, to the rivalry between him and Alain Prost at McLaren to Imola 1994 with little diversion, which is a shame.

There is a big jump from karting straight to F1, which disappointingly for a English fan of motor racing, misses out the British F3 championship of 1983 and the battle with
Martin Brundle.

Also the apparent rivalry with Nelson Piquet, the early spats with Nigel Mansell along with his friendship with Gerhard Berger for instance are all pruned from the plot. However, to make the film a reasonable length, not everything can be included – even if a F1 fan would like it to.

There are voiceover interviews and stories from other various important people in Ayrton’s career – including Prost – and family members too which add some further insight into his character and what made him special.

The largest part of the film is about the 1988 -1990 McLaren Senna/Prost rivalry. While Prost is not portrayed in as fair a way as he deserves, he is not made out to be the total villain. That is reserved for FISA President Jean-Marie Balestre.

After 1990 the film makes another frustrating leap, skipping fairly quickly through to 1994 and the crash. Watching the Imola weekend unfold is very disturbing, with much unseen footage of practice and Japanese TV footage (for me, Imola 1994 was the first F1 race I watched on Japanese TV).

It was a worthwhile film and gave insight and lighter moments to laugh and reminisce with fondness along with tears and being sent back to May 1st, 1994.

The film is about 90 minutes long and definitely worth the trip to the nearest cinema you can watch it at when it opens.

Something that struck me at the end was after the credits and the lights went up there was no chatter from the full house, everyone was absolutely silent, not a sound, until they were back into the noise and bustle of Tokyo streets.
Robert York

There’s more information about the film on publisher Working Title’s website and you can follow writer Manish Pandey on Twitter.

If you’ve been to see “Senna” already, share your opinion on it in the comments.

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78 comments on “Senna” movie: an F1 Fanatic’s opinion

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  1. Dan Newton said on 30th October 2010, 16:17

    It would be fairly hard not to have heard about this film but, to be honest, I wasn’t bothered if I saw it or not (I’m not the worlds best film watcher). But after reading the article I’ve changed my mind and will definatly be watching it. Only trouble is I’ve got to wait until at least June. Why so long?…..

    • Journeyer (@journeyer) said on 30th October 2010, 16:34

      Probably because it’s still making its way around the film festivals of the world before it goes commercial.

      I would’ve probably gone for 2 hours, if only to include F3 and Berger. I’m OK with skipping the rest, if only because I don’t think it adds much more to what’s already there. But F3 was crucial in how he’d first become known (Macau!) and Berger was the one who opened up a different, more fun, more human side of Senna.

  2. Colin Sanders said on 30th October 2010, 16:41

    Can not wait for this to come out.
    Just watching the trailer i was yelling up, remembering wen i was 11 and dad came out from the house and told me that she had died. Hope i don’t build this up too much before release but don’t see how this disappoint!
    visiting a friend in hong kong in march may try and catch it then if its out there then?
    has it got a release date for hong kong yet?

    • senna fan said on 31st October 2010, 8:54

      I don’t think it will be released in HK as F1 is so underground here that it even rarely makes the sports news at all :-(

      However, I am keeping my fingers crossed for it to be screened during the Film Festival in late March, early April.

    • Spectator said on 1st November 2010, 14:12

      and wht not show on the film the bad races that Senna did he was a great driver but juat because he died theres a movie about him he was several times beaten by his team mates or other less powerfull cars you are only remebering the legend not the actual facts by the way 1988 capelli move on senna was great

      • gibranestepjam said on 19th November 2010, 21:24

        there is no perfect driver.. see shumi now… prost 91, 92 … lose is part of the game

        he is famous, becous he was born a legend… he was pesornality that even if dont like motorsport you star love him…

      • paul said on 10th March 2011, 5:16

        Senna was never beaten by teammates, let alone in less powerful cars. It was quite the opposite. Senna was unbeatable with the best car and won the championship in 91 over your dear Nigel with an inferior car. Prost´s Ferrari in 90 was at least as good as Senna´s McLaren, and faster in top speed. In 93, Senna was second to Prost, in a very inferior McLaren. And that was the year when he delivered his most amazing performances, exactly because his car was theoretically the fifth force on the grid, behind both Williams and both Bennetons. Oh, btw, one of the Bennetons driven by MS, with almost 60 more horsepower, and eating dust from Senna race after race. You don´t like Senna, I get it, but why don´t you go tell your lies in a MS fan page?

  3. Colin Sanders said on 30th October 2010, 16:42

    that should be he not she!

  4. Robbie said on 30th October 2010, 16:46

    Can’t wait to see it.

  5. Robert McKay said on 30th October 2010, 17:05

    Very much looking forward to seeing this. Don’t understand why it’s not out in the UK until June 2011 though…

    • Paul F said on 30th October 2010, 17:19

      I think they’re trying to roughly sync the release with the Grand Prix in each particular country…

      • Robert McKay said on 30th October 2010, 17:34

        Ahh, I see, that makes some sense!

        • Ned Flanders said on 30th October 2010, 18:39

          Some sense perhaps, but surely it’d be better to give it a unanimous global release right now. In Britain, for example, I don’t suppose the hype surrounding F1 is likely to be any bigger next summer than it is at the climax of the season

          • Robert McKay said on 30th October 2010, 23:28

            Oh I don’t think they’re doing the right thing releasing it this way, I just understand the logic behind it now.

      • xxiinophobia said on 30th October 2010, 19:56

        So basically, I won’t get to see it until the USGP in 2012.

        Highly disappointed. =[

        • Regis said on 31st October 2010, 0:22

          Why don’t you just Download it? :) Then you can see it now !

          • xxiinophobia said on 31st October 2010, 2:56

            Would rather see it on the big screen for the experience.

          • damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 2nd November 2010, 7:54

            I don’t want to watch it online, or watch it on my big TV, I want to see it in the cinemas so I can experience the immense sound of V12s as close to the real thing as possible. I think the big screen coupled with the incredible sound would evoke much more emotion than simply slamming it in the DVD player, even if I do have a big TV and surround sound. It just isn’t the same.

          • F1 Lover said on 2nd March 2011, 18:13

            do you know where it could be downloaded?
            id love to see it asap….

            tnx a lot!

  6. JPedroCQF1 (@joao-pedro-cq) said on 30th October 2010, 17:34

    In the DVD I hope they put some extras with more details about his carrier and life. They should know that just the Senna and F1 fans are going to buy the DVD. I’m saying this as I’m sure there will be a DVD. I wish I would be sure. But I’m not.

  7. Renee said on 30th October 2010, 17:56

    The first place anyone in UK will be able to see it is when James Allen’s on F1 site does a showing of it, according to his site this will be in the new year. His twitter today said the producer is a mate of his

  8. Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 30th October 2010, 18:30

    Disappointing they’ve cut stuff out but I guess they’re trying to reach out to non-F1 manics too who wouldn’t want a detailed 2-hour documentary. Sadly there probably won’t be any Extended Version for those who might, but never mind. The film’s existence alone is enough.

    Bit worried about what was said about Prost, hope any hyped villainy is kept to a minimum.

  9. US_Peter (@us_peter) said on 30th October 2010, 19:22

    Still no word when/if it will open in the US. :-(

  10. brakebiased said on 30th October 2010, 19:26

    It sounds like a very good film indeed, despite the issues you pointed out. With regards to the silence afterwards, it is said silence is the best compliment the Japanese can give to a film.

  11. Manish Pandey said on 30th October 2010, 19:32

    Everyone on the ‘Senna’ team would like to thank Robert for his review. We really hope that Alain Prost did not come across as ‘the villain’ – but that rivalry was intense so we were forensic in our analysis of events to balance people’s recollections, twenty years on. The film is 101 minutes long and, as Robert mentioned, we could not have covered every race, pole position or win of Ayrton’s life. We wanted to concentrate on that period of his life when he really went on a journey – this is the idiom of movies – and so FF1600, FF2000 and F3 were sacrificed, despite the great battles with Martin Brundle, Calvin Fish etc. Similarly, 1991 was another year of intense three-way rivalry but the key points for Ayrton’s character came with an awareness of his place in the pantheon of F1, his increasing maturity and his understanding that he was as vulnerable to accidents as any other driver. We cover this rather than whether the Williams-Renault was better aerodynamically than Honda’s development of their engine. Touche 1992 and 1993. But we felt that we had to explore 1994 and explain the context and events of Imola – Ayrton deserved that – in detail. Many non-F1 people know him because of his death: hopefully, they will now have some insight into his life. The film is 55% in the English language with the remaining 45% in Portuguese, French and Japanese and the version that Robert will have seen has Japanese subtitles. From conversations with English F1 journalists who have seen the film, who do not read Japanese or speak Portuguese, they have missed out on a good section of a film that we literally assembled frame-by-frame. Apologies to Robert, if he is a fluent Japanese speaker/reader. I’ll give th elast word to Ron Dennis who knew Ayrton better than any of the film-makers: ‘Is the movie a faithful and fitting tribute to the man? And in my opinion the answer is yes, it is.”

    • King Six said on 30th October 2010, 20:36

      It’s not everyday you get the writer chiming into a blog review of his film, kudos to that

      I hope to see this, whenever it comes out in the UK!

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 30th October 2010, 22:07

      Fascinating stuff, Manish, thanks so much for contributing here. Can’t wait to see the film!

    • Yukirin Boy said on 31st October 2010, 1:19

      Thank you very much for the response Mandev.
      I was able to read the subtitles and listen to the Japanese and that did help a lot in the enjoyment of the film/ I agree with Ron too, It is a fitting tribute.

    • Spectator said on 31st October 2010, 22:55

      Thanks for the insight Fortunately Im Portuguese and i used to get A+ at english

    • BasCB said on 1st November 2010, 8:29

      Great to see your reaction here on the blog!

      I hope we get the film here in the Czech Rebublic as well.

      Thanks for making such a memorable movie about Senna.

    • Manish,

      Great job, if I may add this:

      I would be willing to pay lots of money for an extended 6 hour DVD release with every piece of footage you have collected (by way of speaking).

      Don’t forget!

      Lol, I remember in another solemn documentary Gerhard Berger telling of his own crash against the wall at Tamburello, in his totally laid back Austrian drawl:

      “I vent straight into ze beton wall at 300 kilometers, everything exploded, I was on fire [merry colours are your wife](?),.. This wall is really terribel.”

      It cracked me up about 3 minutes straight.

  12. re-play- said on 30th October 2010, 20:31

    but is this the movie about senna that was originaly intended?

    Hollywood star Antonio Banderas is going to play Ayrton Senna in a film chronicling the late Brazilian’s life and brilliant career in Grand Prix racing.
    The film will centre on Senna’s final months before his fatal accident at the San Marino Grand Prix on May 1, 1994, and newspaper reports suggest it could reveal new details about Senna’s life and the accident itself.
    Banderas has been working with Senna’s family, particularly his sister Vivanne to source personal anecdotes.
    There are a lot of things people know but there are also a lot of things that people don’t know and that only the family can reveal,’ Vivanne Senna told the Observer paper.
    ‘Antonio Banderas wanted us to collaborate and bring that side of things to light – all that Ayrton saw and felt, both on and off the track.’
    I just hope that they don’t turn this into another “Driven”. But knowing Banderas he’ll make it into a class-act movie.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 30th October 2010, 22:09

      I think I’d far rather have something with actual footage in it than a fictionalised (probably the wrong word) version.

      • Daniel said on 31st October 2010, 11:28

        perhaps ‘stylised’ or ‘choreographed’?

      • SennaRainho said on 1st November 2010, 12:06

        Keith, if done right both deserve their places. An excellently executed film like “Bird” can take us deeper under the skin of the man wathcing any existing footage of Charlie Parker ever would. If the movie focusses on the man rather than fictional racing I could be a great asset to the knowledge of the legend.

    • I was also looking forward to the Banderas movie but nothing came of it I think. I believe it would certainly have an even greater reach among world audiences, given Banderas’ fame and popularity.

      But motor racing has never been easy to adapt to a feature film – it becomes a mere trivialised depiction of a serious sport. In that sense, maybe the actual footage is a better way to do it. But I was certainly looking forward to a film on Senna with Banderas in the lead.

      But as Keith said when he reviewed the latest book on Senna, when will we see anything on le profeseur – Prost? I consider him one of F1’s greatet stars because of his character that contrasted so much with Senna’s. Prost was pragmatic, calculative and never took unecessary risks – almost in the Alonso-mould. The result? He won four championships – the last one after taking a year off!

      He was a complex character, and I think most would agree it was the presence of Prost that kindled the fire in Senna to beat him, to rebel against the establishment and to become the icon that so many of us cherish today.

      How about a film (actual footage, feature film, whatever) on Prost titled PROST: SENNA’S WORST NIGHTMARE!

  13. King Six said on 30th October 2010, 20:40

    This is a poor review really, the only thing the writer talked about is how the movie kept leaving things out. There’s much better reviews/opinions circling the internet within the F1 circus than this, I’m sorry.

  14. of course it is a poor review since the author never watched Senna racing

    • Yukirin Boy said on 31st October 2010, 1:27

      Dear Manu,
      I am sorry you and King Six think it a poor review. I tried to write how I felt about the film without giving too much information and detail about what was in it because there are many who would complain about that too.
      I have seen Senna race many times, I visited Silverstone from 1985 to 1993, and witnessed some remarkable drives by Senna and watched even more on TV at the time too.

  15. Wasn`t there supposted to be a F1 film a few years back, staring at that time Sly Stallone – wonder what ever happened 2 that ???

    • fordsrule said on 30th October 2010, 23:18

      I have always heard Stallone wanted more money from Ecclestone, and Ecclestone wouldn’t give it to him, so Stallone made it about Cart instead.

    • DavidS said on 31st October 2010, 5:39

      It was called Driven, it was crap.
      I remember seeing a shot of Stallone on a small boat near the track, and the commentators saying that he was doing research for a film about F1.

      Being young at the time, I thought “GREAT,” but saw the movie a few years later and wasn’t so impressed.

      • a shot of Stallone on a small boat

        Ah, now you see that? that’s where Driven went wrong, As historically speaking, the cars don’t actually cross the water. You’ll have to discount Ascari, that was a one off.

    • Patrickl said on 31st October 2010, 11:21

      Yeah Ecclestone wanted too much money, so Stallone went to IndyCars (or whatever it was called back then) instead.

      I think you can still tell that the “story” was intended for F1 though. For instance, there is no German champion/bully in IndyCars.

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