Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Movie review: Schumacher, dir Hanns-Bruno Kammertöns, Vanessa Nöcker, and Michael Wech (2021)

This is a slower production than ‘Drive to Survive’ (which I reviewed recently) and its more poetic tendency goes right through to the end. Less dedicated to the speed of racing, it misses making some key points about Schumacher’s life (which I’ll get to later). 

The TV production has shorter segments and relies more on music to generate atmosphere but like the makers of that show Kammertons, Mocker and Wech also rely on friends and family to develop the plot leading up to 2000, the year Schumacher won the world title for Ferrari. While there are similarities between the two productions I felt that the TV show is more about the industry because it doesn’t take sides. 

‘Schumacher’ is firmly on the side of the protagonist, a shy and reclusive man who was dedicated to his wife, a woman who accompanied him around the world to complete races held in different countries. 

His modest background makes him stand apart from many Formula 1 drivers, though like his competitors he knew early on what he wanted to do with his life. Starting out with the Benneton team Schumacher quickly made his mark until he transferred to Ferrari which, at the time, was weak. Helping the team to rebuild its standing in the rankings, he continued to win even after he won the top prize. He left the team in 2006 but was restless and hungry for speed – sometimes parachuting in Dubai with his wife in tow. They remained inseparable – and this continues down to the present.

It’s his need for speed that brought Schumacher back to Formula 1, when he joined the Mercedes team. He met his match in France skiing – still searching for that elusive experience governed by speed – and has since been recovering. The filmmakers do not show Schumacher as he looks now, so viewers and fans have no opportunity to really reflect on mortality. This might’ve been an additional gift (to people with disabilities) he and his family could make but they declined. Corinne, his wife, saying that just as Michael protected them when he was capable, now that he’s not they are protecting him.

Ayrton Senna crashed and died when Schumacher was an up-and-coming driver. Unable to take a turn at speed Senna crashed into the barriers and didn’t make it out of the car alive – or if he was alive when the emergency crew extracted his body from the wreck, he soon succumbed to his injuries. It’s hardly surprising to learn that a similar – if less dramatic – fate awaited Schumacher, a man who in truth lived life in the fast lane.

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