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Senna [spoilers, duh]

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Senna. Thrilling. Tragic. The most emotionally resounding story of the year.

I tried to recollect what I knew about Ayrton Senna the morning I watched the film, and all that came to mind were two things; he raced in Formula 1, and more faintly than that, he died while racing.

I now know that he was a family man, a man of Brasil, not one bit interested in the politics that ruined racing, unbelievably determined, and most importantly, a man of God. I say most importantly a man of God in a selfish way, as a viewer of this film, because hearing Senna talk repeatedly about what God had given him broke my heart little by little, knowing what would eventually happen. 

1994. The move to Williams. The banning of the technology that been a large contributing factor to Williams’ success in ’93 became doubly worse, with the car being robbed of its consistency, leaving the normally happy-go-lucky Senna nervous, frustrated and worried, in serious doubt at the car’s ability to perform.

Then came the weekend of April 29th, 1994. I began feeling sick in the stomach, and the tears were welling up. I had spent two hours falling in love with this man, and I knew what was coming. I’d known all along, but I hadn’t known who Ayrton Senna the person was.

The POV, in-car footage of Senna in Imola was breathtakingly beautiful on the grand old screen of the State Theatre, and as every turn completed, I waited for the inevitable, heart progressively beating faster. Silence.

I LOVED the audience that turned up at the State Theatre. It’s another reason why I love going to the festival. I hate empty cinemas, and lifeless audiences, but last Sunday’s was fantastic! I’m not sure how much of the crowd knew what was going to happen, but even early on, I could feel the energy and enthusiasm, as lighter moments were greeted with roaring laughter, victories with boisterous cheers, and even a healthy amount of heckling towards Prost. Nothing was audible for what felt like an eternity during all the Imola footage though. And then, slowly, sniffles.

Helmet atop coffin. Poetic. Face after face of anguish. His sister. His wife. His mother. His father. Ron Dennis, Williams, and of course, Alain Prost.

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The larger than life rivarly with Prost, and later, Balestre, along with the absurdly candid footage that was brought to the screen showed me a side of Formula 1 racing I’d never seen before. Sport has always been about great rivalries, and that coupled with the politics Senna was constantly fighting against made for a great spectacle. Half way through I was thinking this would end up like King of Kong, where Billy Mitchell was only portrayed one way, a douchebag, throughout the whole thing, but Prost, as irksome as he was for the majority of the movie, turned out a lot better in than I’d expected in the end.

Everyone’s talked about there being no visible talking heads, or a narrator you notice in this documentary, but I do want to give my massive respect to the editors, Asif Kapadia and everyone else involved in trawling through the thousands of hours of footage to come up with such a strong, focused narrative. 

I know I tweeted overzealously in euphoria [I seem to be doing a lot of this lately] that it was the best story of the year, and I do retract that, but as said above, by far the most emotionally resounding story of the year, and as much as I’m starting to appreciate the other aspects of film a lot more nowadays, anything that can evoke such emotion out of me wins. Every time.

 

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