Archive material takes centre stage with new feature-length films

It feels like there has been a motor racing movie renaissance during the past few years, with the likes of Senna and Rush hitting the big screen to major success at the box office, both winning multiple awards.

The renaissance is continuing with more feature-length films in the works. A film surrounding the life of François Cevert is being released on Wednesday 11th May, whilst Prost will tell the story of the four-time Formula 1 world champion and is scheduled for release in 2017. Recent years could be considered a golden age for motor racing filmography. But, a great film or documentary does not need to be released at the box office to be a hit with the intended audience. The likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime have widened the net in recent years meaning that film makers have a choice on the method that they wish to distribute their movie by.

A new feature-length film has been released, telling the story of Ayrton Senna’s year-long battle in the 1983 British Formula 3 championship with Martin Brundle. If you felt that you wanted more from Senna’s early years in the Senna film, this film helps go some distance towards that goal. Senna vs. Brundle was developed from start to finish by Mario Muth and has been released on Vimeo for £5.99. The film clocks in at just over 90 minutes long, an ideal length without over saturating the subject.

There are multiple effects used throughout the film which help bring it to life. The main one is animation in the context of still images. By scaling closer to the main object in each still image, the viewer feels a ‘connection’ between themselves and the image in question. In many cases, the car is brought to life through this effect. The most dramatic image is Brundle attempting to escape his Eddie Jordan Racing car after colliding with Senna.

Archive footage is used sporadically throughout the video. Unlike today, you have to consider that the amount of footage available from a typical 1983 Formula 3 race is going to be significantly less than the footage from an equivalent event today which is understandable. I checked the BBC’s Genome service to see if the corporation aired any Formula 3 races on television, and only the final round of the 1983 season was covered. Any shortcomings in archive footage are overcome through the use of magazine extracts from AUTOSPORT and Motorsport News. Again, this is done in a ‘stylish’ manner as opposed to taking the standard flat ‘display on screen’ approach, showing that attention to detail is present throughout the film.

Senna vs Brundle - magazine cutting.png
Magazine snippets are used by Mario Muth throughout Senna vs Brundle, in a stylish, modern manner.

One concern I had before watching the film was that Senna’s view-point would not be captured, however any concern in this area is dispelled quickly. The viewer hears Senna through recorded audio from 1983 at various stages during the film. All of the major viewpoints were captured, including team bosses (Eddie Jordan), commentator (Murray Walker), journalists (David Tremayne) and then the drivers themselves (Senna, Brundle and Davy Jones).

The main negative concerns the flow of the film. Not necessarily the ordering, but the break points. At 90 minutes in length, it didn’t feel like there was a natural ‘breathing point’. As far as I recall, there was no ‘fade to black’ and then onto the next section. Personally, three or four ‘break points’ in the film, with a time stamp following on, for example “Silverstone, 16th July 1983” would not have gone amiss to show the context that the event took place in. We know the events occurred in 1983, but the relative time frame is unclear. In the grand scheme of things, this is a minor gripe at best.

I hope Senna vs Brundle is the springboard for more films of this nature being produced. It serves as a template for other great battles over the years in Formula 1 and beyond that could be retold in the same manner, giving a new fresh insight. Schumacher vs Villeneuve (1997), Schumacher vs Hakkinen (2000) and Hamilton vs Massa (2008) are just three possibilities in the future… as I have said before, the Formula One Management (FOM) archive is a goldmine waiting to be exploited, one day.

FOM are already making small movement on the archive front, this season it feels like that they are uploading more archive material to their YouTube channel with rare footage such as classic on-boards being made publicly available for fans to watch. I hope that trend continues as the season progresses. It is important that we remember where the sport came from, and films such as Senna vs Brundle help in that respect.

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2 thoughts on “Archive material takes centre stage with new feature-length films

  1. This is the third F1-related blog I follow to mention this film, but the first to clearly indicate that you have watched the entire production. My interest has been piqued, and I’ve ensured that the first blog to mention this film has remained “unread” on my RSS feed to give me quick access should I choose to pay for it.

    In the interests of full disclosure, did you pay to view this film or were you given access for free?

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