I think documentaries are my new favourite thing to watch, this weekend I had a choice of two - Herzog's 'Cave of Forgotten Dreams' and 'Senner', an autobiographical feature about the F1 legend.
I picked the latter and was glad I did, because I enjoyed every moment. It felt as compelling and tense and emotional as the best drama I've seen, but so much more because it was about real people. The 'characters' (and there are plenty of them in this ego-fuelled sport) were fascinating.
All the drivers names were so familiar to me, and like this documentary, it was nice to reminisce about a snap shot in my life. F1 in the early 90s was a regular fixture on weekend TV in my house - the zoom and whizz from the cars was a pleasing audio trip down memory lane.
This film started a nice train of thought about the idea of celebrity. I knew who Senner was, but I couldn't tell you one thing about his private life. Thankfully, neither did this documentary. The focus was entirely about Senner's relationship with the sport, his passion for driving and his disinterest in all the peripheral technology and fame.
F1, I think is unique, it's vague. Who you support - the team or the driver? In the case of Ayrton - people loved him, what he represented, what he was - raw talent of mythical proportions - not politics, money and machines. Something so special when contrasted against who's in the game today (the preceding advert was for Tag Heuer sponsored by Louis Hamilton - arguably more famous for his girlfriend and sponsorship deals than what he can do on the track).
Senner's relationship with one-time team mate, Alain Prost, was something like an old-school arch nemesis. The 'I hate you but respect you' type. I think the comedic element came out to me as I'd watched Talladega Nights that morning and their public spats with the media reminded me of Ricky Bobby and Jean Girard. But it was fascinating. Clearly Max Clifford wasn't around to curb their PR, and it was refreshing to see their rivalry splashed out in snappy sound bites and bitchy one liners. Prost, most famously said “Ayrton's got a problem, he thinks because he believes in God, he's immortal”, after one chicane incident which saw the Frenchman exit the race early.
The audience already knows the tragic ending, so the comments about eternal life and Senner's open and profound faith in God, added an interesting dynamic to the feature.
Tragedy is the obvious point behind Asif Kapadia's documentary. Senner had a legendary status built up from an impressive talent, great looks and honest heart who was cut down at the height of his career. It was the death on an innocent. It was man's tampering with the machines which ended his life, not the human talent. Poignantly Senner ends with Ayrton lamenting his origins in the sport and the purity and thrill found in go-kart racing.
5 out 5 - loved every heart-stopping-driver-side-camera moment of it.