Seen as imperturbable and infallible, and, as such, arrogant, the protagonist of the documentary (made by Hanns-Bruno Kammertöns, Vanessa Nöcker, Michael Wech) is humanized from its very first shots. First, we witness Michael Schumacher swimming together with one of his kids, and only after that, do we see his Ferrari exiting one of the tunnels in Monte Carlo, captured in mid-race. Imposed over both shots, the same elegiac music: for the most part, the German superstar is victimized, and the accident whose victim he was in December 2013 is but one of the reasons why.
After his first Grand Prix win, we turn back in time, to acquaint ourselves with Michael Schumacher the kid, which additionally humanizes the hero (and would be capable of humanizing even Mussolini, if someone would come up with the idea to dedicate an encomiastic material to him, something which this Netflix documentary certainly is). It’s the first time the protagonist is presented as the victim of uncontrollable circumstances: his parents’ financial means are limited, which means that the little Schumacher must drive karts that are cobbled together from second-hand parts. Years later, the adult Schumacher is the victim of the press and of the fans, which mines his chances at having a peaceful life. The same Schumacher is then wronged by Senna, when the Brazilian superstar reproaches him for a hit, which forces him to abandon a tournament (that of Magny-Cours, in 1992). Even after Senna’s deadly accident, the main victim still seems to be Schumacher, who is traumatized, but especially anxious, since he becomes hyper-conscious of the risks which are associated with working as a Formula 1 driver. He is once again the victim of the press after he causes yet another hit, which in turn compromises the entire season of the Ferrari Team, and, in the end, he is the victim of Coulthard at the Belgian Grand Prix of 1998, when the two crash into each other.
The grey areas in the protagonist’s biography are passed by with such a dizzying speed that it’s possible for one to not even catch a glimpse of them. Amongst them, his passing from Jordan to Benneton after only one race, his crashing into Senna at Magny-Cours, his crash into Damon Hill in his last 1994 race. His crash into Villeneuve in 1997 is given ampler space since its consequence is his disqualification from the World Championship; however, the event is relativized: amongst the showcased opinions, Willi Weber, his former manager’s declaration is also featured, who attributes the pilot’s incapacity of recognizing his shortfalls to his zodiac sign – Capricorn.
It’s not just the fact that the sequences that approach the controversies generated by Schumacher are as short as they can be, and that their interpretation is partisan, but they are also promptly followed up by a counterweight, meaning a glowing interview or a personal archive recording wherein the hero is portrayed as a model family man. Immediately after relaying the disputable way in which he won his 1994 title, which lasts a total of 115 seconds, including Damon Hill’s commentary, Corinna Schumacher speaks about the strength of their relationship for 120 seconds. After the 288-second sequence dedicated to his hit of Jacques Villeneuve, editors Michael Scheffold, Susanne Ocklitz, and Olaf Voigtländer opt to show the German champion in his role as a father: playing with his children in the snow, enjoying his time together with them during the period in which he is disqualified. This segment is then followed by over 4 minutes of talking heads which praise Schumacher’s devotion to Ferrari and his leadership qualities, all in unison. A total of 374 secondsHis most flattering portrait is drawn by Corinna Schumacher herself, who speaks very little about her own person, and if she does, it’s to add yet another epithet to the already-heavy mantle of superlatives that she perks upon Michael’s shoulders. This is the funniest man alive, the most adorable of husbands, the best father (which, of course, turns her into the luckiest of women, wives, and mothers). There is nothing here which we haven’t already guessed about Schumacher the man, nothing from which we didn’t already know about his skiing accident and the following recovery.
Her approval for the creation of this documentary must have imposed a series of compromises. But nothing justifies the fact that, at the end of the almost two-hour-long documentary, even Schumacher’s professional activity remains little more than a collection of advertisement platitudes and vague hyperboles. It’s not even clear which category he raced in after having abandoned karting, before moving on to Formula 1. It remains unknown how the 1992 season ended, the 1993 season is completely out of the picture, and even the 5 year-period of consecutive World Championship titles are quickly glossed over, while the years he spent driving the Mercedes almost do not appear to exist.
Schumacher debuted in the Formula 1 race because Bertrand Gachot, a Jordan pilot and the winner of Le Mans in 1991, had just been sentenced to prison (for assaulting a taxi driver after a minor accident). Dumb luck, as father Rolf Schumacher calls it, and directors Hanns-Bruno Kammmertöns, Vanessa Nöcker, and Michael Wech don’t feel the need to give even the slightest of explanations regarding Schumacher’s luck (and Gachot’s narratively tempting misfortune). Similarly, the three don’t approach the success of the protagonist’s son, Mick, a Formula 3 World Champion in 2018 and Formula 2 one in 2020, at all.
Their film should be only about one thing, and that is father-Schumacher’s quality of excelling in all aspects and activities of life, down to its most hidden nooks and crannies. The house they build for him is a mausoleum.
Hanns-Bruno Kammertöns, Vanessa Nöcker, Michael Wech