Former F1 driver Sebastian Vettel once famously said that ‘everyone is a Ferrari fan’, claiming that the passion, the history, and the thrill for the sport is embedded within the Ferrari brand and team. Everyone that is a fan of Formula 1 and shares these views, therefore, must surely have a soft spot for the team in red.
However, the film Ferrari was met with a varied response.
Directed by Michael Mann, the story of the worshipped creator of the red car, Enzo Ferrari, is told in a dramatic, soap-opera like way. Faced with looming bankruptcy, the loss of his eldest son, Dino, the deterioration of his marriage with Laura Ferrari (Penelope Cruz), a relationship with his mistress Lina Lardi (Shailene Woodley) and the need to acknowledge his son with Lina, there is much for Mann to dissect in this 131-minute film.
In hope of pulling the brand name out of financial difficulty, Enzo (played by Adam Driver), enters three drivers into the Mille Miglia – a treacherous, dangerous, and intense 1600km race across Italy. Whether our heart is pounding from the raging conflicts between Enzo and Laura, or the racing expertise on tracks, Ferrari is sure to take you on a ride.
Criticism for this film lies in two areas.
The first is the style this sports biopic takes, many dislike the long conversations between Ferrari and either of his lovers or the long talks of banking and finance. Many claimed they yearned for more racing sequences, with stunning visuals of man and machine. What I say to that is: if you want to watch more about the dynamics of racing – watch a documentary.
This film is supposed to be dramatic. It is supposed to be complex. It is supposed to delve into the personal life of the man behind the brand. There are several documentaries available about the rise and fall of teams, brands, drivers, and businesspeople. It is time that these figures were humanised and given some well-deserved screen time. This film is about the turmoil of Enzo’s life. That there is power, responsibility and pressure of carrying the Ferrari name. This humanisation shows us that he isn’t just a godly figure that everyone perceives him to be, but rather that he is just like the rest of us: he makes mistakes, has issues and complications – he is human too. Therefore, this film offers an olive branch to peak into the life of Enzo Ferrari.
This humanisation shows us that he isn’t just a godly figure that everyone perceives him to be, but rather that he is just like the rest of us: he makes mistakes, has issues and complications – he is human too.
The second complaint, albeit minor, was the delivery of Italian accents. This slight flaw does unfortunately draw attention away from the dialogue, disrupting the natural flow, and Woodley in particular appeared to struggle with this. At moments it seemed that she just submitted to her American accent altogether! This struggle also highlights the ultimately dead-end role that Woodley was cast for: Lina as a character was more there to supplement the story of Ferrari, yet the character lacked any development or meaningful place in the story. She was merely a visual representation of Ferrari’s other life. This wasn’t any fault of the actress, but perhaps poor planning and script writing by Troy Kennedy Martin.
Despite this, the other female star, Penelope Cruz was extraordinary in her well-suited role. Her fiery and feisty female character was the fuel that drove this movie to success. She portrayed a woman with confidence, conviction, and chaos in her life all bundled into one body. She beautifully portrays a grieving woman at the loss of her only son. This topped with the demand of navigating Ferrari business assets as well as a husband who is having an affair, Cruz had a complex character to unpick and present. Laura was the woman who steered the viewers to fall in love with the film. She provided drama when the narrative lacked progression. She provided tension and anticipation in moments of long conversation. She is the backbone of Ferrari.
Equally, Driver’s depiction of the deeply flawed protagonist was exceptionally well done. Ferrari’s life, much like that of the business of Ferrari, is constantly on the edge. He is pushing boundaries but is aware that one mistake will cost him dearly. Driver’s reserved demeanour and icy cold commands are perfect in showing how ruthless, yet cunning Ferrari was in his decision making. But perhaps one can have too much of a good thing; this closed off representation did wonders for his overall character, yet the audience lacked any form of intrigue to hint at why drivers were quite literally throwing themselves at the man to be part of the team.
Driver’s reserved demeanour and icy cold commands are perfect in showing how ruthless, yet cunning Ferrari was in his decision making.
Where the director’s talent shone brightest, was when the cars were on the roads or on track. The car sequences were shot with such artistic care, that you can’t help but fall in love with the sight and sound of the V12 engines. Cinematography by Erik Messerschmidt put us right in the driving seat – cameras onboard the car, fixed to the sides and the bonnet, gave us a flavour for the sport and a thrill in the seats of the cinema. Excellent, electrifying, exceptional cinematography that shows the exhilaration of motorsport.
There is a lot of metaphorical beauty to this film, with parallels between Enzo’s life and the excitement and jeopardy that comes with motor racing. Motorsport is so deeply adored, much like that of religion: in a scene where Ferrari is sitting in a church, his focus is more attuned to the sound of cars racing around a nearby track. A drop of humour rippled around the cinema when multiple men in the church alongside Ferrari were timing the sound of the gun (signalling the start and end of the driver going round the track) rather than focusing on the priest in front of them. The significance of racing is clear cut here – it is a huge part in some people’s lives that all their attention and love is poured into it.
So, I think, Sebastian Vettel’s statement must be true.