Also unique to this documentary is the sensory experience it offered me in theater. Many documentaries don't need a big screen viewing. This one was simply wonderful on the big screen. With its footage from cameras situated right inside Senna's car, I, as a viewer, sat right inside the terrifying and exhilarating speed and movement of the race.
I purposefully did not read about Senna before seeing the film, so while I knew, intuitively, how the film would end, I did not know the exact circumstances, and for that last half hour of the film (a beautifully paced half hour), I was on the edge of my seat, filled with dread and terrible anticipation. The end, when it came, was moving and cathartic in a way I'd never have anticipated a film about racing would be for me, and the very last piece of footage, without giving it away, was, quite simply, perfect, delivered to me in beautiful closure, a tribute to Senna and to his deep love for racing.
Ultimately, the film captures the way Senna himself captured racing fans' hearts and it lovingly depicts the intense adoration the otherwise impoverished and despairing people of Brazil had for the man, their national hero. There' s a kind of glorious extravagance in the way that a people can so embrace a man and his incredible skill in a sport, even when they themselves are living in such terrible circumstances.
Their love, I think, reflects the need we have as humans to hold onto something beyond the day to day necessities of living and grubbing, to find sheer joy in something that is an end in itself, something that benefits us only on the emotional or spiritual or aesthetic level. Senna reminded me that our sport, our play, the deep investment and love we can put into these things is anything but trivial; it fulfills a deeply human need to lavish love on something that does not seem necessary, that does not feed or clothe our bodies; it feeds something much less definable but just as essential.