Ayrton Senna was widely regarded as one of the best race car pilots in the history of sport and Asif Kapadia's masterful documentary proves why. The thrilling film closely follows Senna's trajectory beginning as an amateur and then going all the way to him being World Champion on three consecutive years. The film chronicles his rivalry with teammate Alain Prost, with whom he engaged in psychological warfare on and off the racing track. What remains so stunning about this film, is how it trespasses into narrative fiction while retaining elements of non-fiction cinema. Most documentaries make you aware that you are watching reality being bent and that for all you want to do about it, the events being related are unchangeable. What goes on with Senna is quite the opposite, the film is done entirely with archival and news footage (there are no modern day interviews or intrusive narration) all of this helps create a seamless chain of events that trick us into thinking we might be watching fiction. We know for a fact that we're not, but the narrative is so precise and flawless that we ask ourselves, why were that many cameras near Ayrton all the time? The entire film has an eerie prescience, as if the people involved knew one day these fragments of their lives would be used to tell a life story. With that said, the film avoids sensationalism, instead turning Ayrton into a mythical figure with a tainted human spirit. His love of god and country are as great as his ego (sometimes he sounded deluded, as if he was the Joan of Arc of racing) and for all the inevitability of its tragic finale, you always hope things will turn out different for him in the end. They don't of course, but Senna proves that truth can sometimes be much more harrowing than fiction.
However, here's a theory: the movie grabs a soldier and a schoolteacher - two of the most "heroic" and valued professions in the USA - takes away their "integrity" and pitches them against each other in a brutal fight for money. What is the film saying about the worth of morality in a world where the economy plummets constantly? Now, that would've made a much more interesting movie...
Jane Eyre ***