“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

  1. Despite much googling, I can’t find an Australian release date. Anyone have the lowdown on that? I would love to see it, considering I only came into F1 in ’98 and therefore missed his entire career. It has been ranked 8.9/10 on IMDB, so it sounds promising.

    • Gusto said on 1st November 2010, 21:16

      After many times reading this thread Ive just noticed your Pirelli an not Peril.

      • Ah, I modified it somewhat in order to attrract Pirelli to F1, on the suggestion of another contributor. Since that seems to have worked quite well, I could just go back to Peril – especially since I have to remember to change it back every time for my tips !

  2. fordsrule said on 30th October 2010, 23:15

    Any idea if it is coming to Australia, havent heard anything :(

    • I’m 99% sure it will come, but I think it will, due to lack of interest, end up being very much a niche film, and require you to go into the city to see it.

      That’s my expectation anyway.

  3. mileage said on 31st October 2010, 1:29

    “Driven” is fictional. Yet an amazing film. Try and do one better.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 31st October 2010, 8:09

      It’s awful. It’s so bad the series it portrays should have sued them to prevent it being released. It’s an embarrassment.

      • Junpei said on 31st October 2010, 9:52

        Although Driven is not the movie of the century, it still has its own merits. I’ve been thinking for a while why they don’t make more movies centered around track racing, especially with some of the awesome shots and camera angles present in today’s F1 coverages for example.

        Then when you seriously start to think about it you realize, that cramming a seasons worth of drama and narrative into 90 minutes of screentime, without it becoming boring for 90 percent of the audience is actually a paramount job. Seriously how many truly great movies can you recall that were based on the subject. All of them had shortcomings, that made hardcore fans complain.

        If you think about it, a movie about F1 would always be considered a “sequel” to the original real-life drama, and you can’t name many sequels that were as good or better than the originals.

        Driven was focusing on some aspects on racing in my opinion, which was rivalry of friends, and handling the mental pressures inside and outside the cockpit. If you look at it from that perspective, you’ll discover a lot of similarities to drivers and events in F1 today.

        It’s really true that it’s way off in many stuff, especially the technical side, but we’re talking about Hollywood here. Driven is a perfect movie for a Sunday afternoon, with a cool soundtrack and some impressive shots. Kudos to Renny Harlin for actually trying.

        p.s.: This is still way better than “sending a virus to the alien spaceship” in ID4, which many consider to be a “fantastic movie”.

        • Daniel said on 31st October 2010, 12:14

          It’s the same with any movie topic. There are always people more knowledgeable on a topic than the film makers. Scientists pick apart sci-fi movies like crazy, people who know computers were horrified by swordfish. The more technical the subject, or the more specialised the knowledge required the worse the problem. Trust me I’m a Physicist.

          Only someone in F1 could make a fictional movie about F1 that the most knowledgeable F1 fans couldn’t find fault with.

          • Junpei said on 31st October 2010, 16:03

            Very true.

            Also most of the time you realize the fact, after watching some writer/director interview, that they sacrificed factual/scientific accuracy for the sake of a narrative goal or necessary plot-point, or simply money.

            The end result is simply that you either like a movie, or not. If you don’t, you still have the chance now to make your own cut on your home computer :).

  4. Yukirin Boy said on 31st October 2010, 1:35

    Thank you for all the comments.
    If you get the chance do watch it. Anyone with any motorsport interest, especially from 80s and 90s will find it fascinating.
    What is included, far outweights what had to be left out to make the film to a reasonable length and to make the film appeal to a broader audience than fanatics – who like me, could have watched hours more.

  5. Well written. I am really waiting for the DVD of this movie to come out.

    ” 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”

    It is one of those film which you won’t get too much time to make some noise.

  6. DavidS said on 31st October 2010, 5:54

    Judging by the review, it seems that the film has to leave a lot out for brevity.
    I hope they release a Director’s Cut for DVD/Blu-Ray that is way longer than this version. I would easily be able to watch 3 hours of this. They would have already done a lot of the research and accumulation of archive footage so it seems like it could be done.

  7. j3sei said on 31st October 2010, 7:40

    I watched it in Kawasaki last weekend before the Korean GP and since I started watching F1 around 93/94 I wasn’t really familiar with Senna’s career but I did watch the tragic San Marino GP live.

    Don’t think I can add anything more to Robert’s review, it’s a must see for sure.

  8. Ayrton said on 31st October 2010, 9:29

    Needless to say I cannot wait, but for me in New Zealand…the forgotten land… if you guys in the UK don’t get it till June 2010 I will not get it till June 2040! Nevertheless, I have been waiting for this documentary since 1994 or most likely before then…I shed so many tears that day I am not sure I can handle the movie…the top gear review of Senna was enough to set me off. Unfortunately my heart no longer races as fast watching modern F1, but I must say since Lewis Hamilton came into the sport it has a got a tad more exciting and reminiscent of the Senna era. The thing I really admired about Senna was not just his race craft but the way he spoke and used the English language was so powerful and almost poetic…it demanded your attention and every one would just hang off his words…. He had his faults but that is what made him such an interesting character. It is a testament to his legacy that we continue to talk and wonder about the boy from Sao Paolo…and his name lives on in a charity for the people he loved and cared for so much…

  9. Can anyone suggest any other good movie about any F1 driver?

    Watched about Cevert days ago, but it was just 20 minutes long

    • S.J.M said on 31st October 2010, 23:57

      Although not films, but there was 3 documentries on the BBC channels sometime ago that were excellent.
      Jim Clark: The Quiet Champion (I think was the title)
      Jacky Stewart: The Flying Scotsman
      and 1 on Graham Hill, but i forget the actual title.

      I cant think of any films on F1 drivers, but if you want as near a realistic film to watch, id Suggest Grand Prix (1966) if you havent already seen it. Filmed alongside the F1 circus as it went along the 1966 season, it has IMO the best racing scenes of anyfilm.

      • Gusto said on 1st November 2010, 17:50

        Once Senna is released onDVD it will complete the make up for the perfect day.

        Grand Prix(1966) in the morning
        Le Mans with Paul Newman in the afternoon
        Senna in the evening

        p.s If you haven`t seen Grand Prix I urge you to buy it, Apart from cameos by Hill,Clark an Fangio(Wiki?), It has a future Martin Brundle portrayed by James Garner…..Le Mans is damn fine as well:-)

  10. Jarv027 said on 31st October 2010, 10:50

    The BBC documentry is the best Senna documentry i’ve ever seen! Its all on youtube.

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  12. i want to watch this movie so bad! When Senna died i was only 14 years old and back then, watching F1 in the USA was like finding a cold drink of water in the middle of the desert. I hope the movie will be shown in the USA. Sadly i only saw senna never race during his time(only on tapes and videos) but he has been ever to me the best ever. and still is!

  13. First of all, thanks for the review. It really opened my appetite for the Documentary, which is in my must see list for over a year when I heard about it.

    Also its great to see the director and writer giving a comment over here. Its good to see that the persons behind the film are enthusiastic about Formula 1, which is reassuring that the documentary will not lack the “heart” that comes from the love o motorsport racing.

    As for driven, yes it had a corny Indycar chase shot in the middle of a metropolis at night (ridiculous, yes), but it had the elements we all see in today’s racing: team orders, the relationship inside a team, strong personalities and rivalries in the drivers… It was a fun movie to watch, and “that crash” is still the best cinematic racing crash I’ve seen in a movie.

  14. Alec S. said on 31st October 2010, 18:18

    I thought I’d share an unusual privilege I had many years ago. When I was in high school in Buenos Aires, Argentina, I dreamed of a racing career and was trying to race karts. I went to see a kart race at the Oscar Galvez track, in 1980 or 1981, and saw Senna race when he went by Ayrton da Silva. I’ve no idea what the technical specs of karts are these days, but back then they were of the ultimate simplicity, with the aim of keeping costs down and making driver differences count. The karts had 100cc engines, no clutch, and no gears. And it worked, the races were so even that there was constant overtaking, and the lead would typically change every lap. The race was like a swarm of bees going around trading places. Except for one bee. Sa Silva had such a ridiculous edge over everyone else that he lapped almost the entire field, and that was a NUMEROUS field. The other drivers, by the way, included some names that were to go on and become really big at the national level, like Marcos di Palma and Gustavo Der Ohanessian. It was obvious to me as a teenager that I had seen something really special in the works, and I remember telling all my friends at school next day that I’d seen a future world champion of F1. It was that commanding a difference, it left no room for doubt that really huge things were to come.

  15. claudioff said on 31st October 2010, 23:06

    When I was deciding what would be the picture in my avatar, I asked myself what would be the most memorable moment I witnessed in the f1 history. I didn´t have to think too much, and the moment was the first lap of the donington park 1993 race. Senna in a inferior car overtook in the first lap Schumacher, Wendlinger (using the outer part of the curve, pure magic), Hill and finally Prost. I hope the film portrays this moment.

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