The Critics: Senna



Dir. Asif Kapadia

So often, a biography attempts to convey the life and spirit of a person through the words of others, a practise that Asif Kapadia’s Senna, for the most part, discards.

Ayrton Senna is his own narrator, charismatic and captivating both on and off the track. The likes of Ron Dennis and in particular Alain Prost, offer intriguing insights into the legendary race driver as a friend, teammate and rival, but it is the Brazilian’s passion, honesty and candidness that elevate Kapadia’s feature.


Appropriately, Senna is also very, very fast. Onboard footage from the Formula 1 archives offers a kinetic, cinematic experience, belying its televisual roots. Senna’s victory at the Brazilian Grand Prix, a race that he completed in sixth gear due to a mechanical failure, sees the film at its most exhilarating, but his was a career and a life soaked through with such spectacle.

Inevitably, a sense of dread pervades the final act. We hear Senna discuss his hopes and ambitions, even as the film draws inexorably toward its tragic conclusion. It’s unsettling, and affecting, but it’s also truthful; Senna’s death, still at the peak of his powers, is just as shocking, even now. And in the aftermath, fittingly, it’s his voice that endures; still compelling, still vital, and in Kapadia’s film at least, still alive.



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