Senna Blu-ray Review
‘Senna’ races on to UK Region free Blu-ray with a ‘real looking’ 1080p VC-1 encoded transfer, framed in the widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio. This is a very hard film to review in terms of picture quality as it is effectively made up of archive footage. It has a mix of film and video spanning at least 30 years. In the feature we have the associated quality of Super 8, 16mm and 35mm film as well as VHS, U-matic, 1” C format and Betacam video. The reality is that this film, being a documentary, isn’t so much about the technical quality of the image rather than the content. Some video footage has picture break up caused by oxide dropping off the tape, while some film is very grainy. However, it’s interesting to see the picture quality improve over the period of Senna’s career.
In general, it has a soft look to it with variable colour and contrast – yet, it’s what makes this film real. It looks like news footage. To quote a famous Scottish former racing champion, “It is what it is.”
At the end of the day, it’s hard to see a great deal of difference in quality between the DVD and Blu-ray of this title.
The audio on ‘Senna’ comes in the DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround flavour and while most of the ‘voice over’ sonic action is front centre weighted, it’s clear that quite a bit of thought has been put into the sound design to make the race footage live. During the cockpit camera mounted shots, the scream of the engines fills your room and puts you right next to the driver. It’s pretty loud too, so play nice with the neighbours. The subwoofer also adds to the presence very nicely. Some general track noises have been panned to the surrounds, so there’s a greater feeling of being there.
The score by Antonio Pinto adds immediacy and a heartbeat to the film, coming at you via the main stereo pair, yet it resists the urge to take over and augments the on screen action – which is what a good score is supposed to do.
This is quite a well designed mix – and surprising for a documentary.
The version reviewed here is the UK Triple play package which contains the Blu-ray on one disc and the DVD and digital Copy on the other.
Theatrical and Extended versions - The film comes in the above two versions, with the Theatrical release running at 106 mins, while the Extended version adds another hour to the run time. The extra footage comprises talking head interviews (from which some ‘voice over’ was borrowed for the Theatrical release) as well as some sequences that the film makers would have liked to use, but couldn’t fit in to the Theatrical version. I preferred the Theatrical version as it is much tighter and I felt that the interviews, although fascinating, slowed the pace down considerably
Interviews (SD, 57 mins) - This is a series of talking heads that provide much of the ‘voice over’ for the film. Richard Williams, John Bisignano, Pierre Van Vliet, Reginaldo Leme, Wagner Gonzalez and Alain Prost reflect on the personalities involved in Formula 1 in the 1980’s. They also discuss the small Toleman team that Senna joined early in his career in 1984, the challenge of racing in the rain. The Lotus years (1985-86) and finally the move to McLaren in 1988. Each interviewee provides us with an insight into Senna’s mindset.
The Greatest Victory of All (SD, 5 mins) - A glossy Brazilian promo covering the F1 success of Senna and the work he did to improve the lives of people in his home country.
‘Lost’ Radio interview with Gerald Donaldson (audio only, 39 mins) - An interview with Senna that was considered lost for years. Gerald Donaldson takes him back to his roots and what it was that got him interested in racing. The technical quality of the recording isn’t great due to background noise, but it’s the content that’s fascinating.
Feature Commentary with Director and Film makers - James Gay-Rees, producer, Manish Pandey, writer and executive producer, Asif Kapadia, director take us through the making of the film and how it came about. The three provide background anecdotes about Senna as well as the decision to use existing footage of his life by raiding the FIA archives
Home videos (SD, 3 mins) - Some nice home movies shot by Leonardo Senna of Ayrton enjoying family life and on his travels.
Trailers (HD, 8 mins) - We have trailers for the movie from Brazil and Japan as well as the International version.
‘Senna’ comes to UK Region free Blu-ray with a ‘real world’ 1080p VC-1 encoded transfer, framed in the widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio.
The film is constructed almost entirely from archive footage spanning 30 years, so the image quality varies tremendously due to the origination format which as anything from Super 8 film to VHS to Betacam broadcast video of the 1990’s.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track has been well designed to amplify the track driving experience for the viewer, while the main focus of the piece is front centre weighted.
The bonus material includes a series of taking head interviews, a film maker’s commentary and Leonardo Senna’s home movies.
The film itself is a well crafted feature documentary on the short life and behind the scenes trials in the fortunes of Formula 1 Champion Ayrton Senna, which uses predominantly archive material creatively and covers his beginnings with the Toleman team through to his success with McLaren. For F1 fans and film buffs alike.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £19.99
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