Lauda: The Untold Story Review


It’s heart is in the right place, but it isn’t quite up to speed.

In 1976, Niki Lauda survived one of the most famous crashes in Formula One history, leaving him facially disfigured.

Using previously unseen footage, Lauda: The Untold Story attempts to examine what happened on that day at the Nurburgring, and follow Lauda’s journey to recovery that famously culminated in a miraculous comeback in Monza only weeks later.

Unlike other motorsport films like Senna and Rush, Lauda falls down in one, but essential, category: the documentary suffers from a lack of coherency as a whole.

It gets right to the nub of the story at the start: opening with footage of Lauda’s crash and treatment at the scene from 1976, with Lauda speaking about it in the present day. Once the interviews kick in, however, whatever structure might have been falls apart.

This is a shame, as all the parts are interesting, as the film also investigates the impact the crash had not just on Lauda’s life but F1 as a sport, and looks at the safety developments from the 1900’s to today, where it has been twenty years since the death of a driver in Formula One.

The sections dealing with the history of F1 safety and how measures gradually came in to protect the drivers (staggeringly there was a time drivers didn’t wear helmets and kept their arms outside the car), as throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s as technology improved, speeds increased, but safety standards were slower to move.

Now F1 drivers are athletes, as they require a high level of physical fitness and upper body muscle to withstand the velocity the cars reach and lose in seconds.

Technical tweaks could improve the watchability of the film; the subtitles often switched unexpectedly from bottom to top of the screen to accommodate the appearance of names, and the presence of subtitles during interviews with heavily accented German speakers would have been helpful.

There was also a downright puzzling sequence with someone beginning an interview in English, before an intrusive German narration kicked in over it, along with English subtitles for the spoken German, neither of which seemed to relate to (I think) the English interview, which threw me out of the story completely as my own confusion brick walled me.

A little once over of sequence of events would tighten the whole.

Lauda: The Untold Story will be screened for one night only on Thursday July 2nd, with a post Q&A session moderated by Suzi Perry, and a panel including Hannes Schalle, the film’s director, and F1 legend Mark Webber.

If you’re interested in Formula One it’s worth checking out as it’s chock full of interesting titbits and old footage of vintage cars that look like tinker toys, and features interviews with motorsport legends past and present, including Sir Jackie Stewart, Jochen Mass, David Coulthard, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, as well as Niki Lauda himself.

The vision is clear, and it’s halfway there. As it stands it simply needs better structuring so there is a clear progression of the story of Lauda in relation the history of F1, and changes that came in due to accidents such as his.

As it is it is neither historical documentary nor tale of an unbeatable sportsman. Any story of such ferocious perseverance and will deserves to be told. But it deserves to be told better.

EJ Robinson

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Dates ‘n stuff

July 2015