The Good Funeral Awards

The Soundtrack to a Heroic Death

15 March, 2013

Ernest Becker’s book The Denial of Death begins by saying the world is a ‘theatre for heroism’. Our main task on this planet is to be heroic.

So we’re always looking for models. The makers of the documentary Senna created a superb blueprint.

The film is a masterpiece of selective storytelling.

Senna is an innocent young man who came to Britain to race go-karts. Then he graduated to the corrupt world of Formula 1.

Still, he managed to retain his integrity. He is compared to Alan Prost. Prost drives for points, while Senna drives for God.

We see how Senna, an unknown, overtakes a dozen drivers in terrible conditions in one of the Monaco Grand Prix.

While suffering from terrible physical discomfort, he overcomes his pain to win the Brazilian Grand Prix for his home fans.

Senna loves his family and his fellow drivers. He fights for their safety.

What is intensely moving about this film is the presentation of death as a triumphant event.

And in our narcissistic imaginations, isn’t that what we want it to be?

The eyes of the world are on Senna as he leads the San Marino Grand Prix and then he hits a wall at over 200mph.

Until a man is dead we can’t really judge him, because we don’t really know what can go wrong in his life.

But the moment we realise that Senna is dead, the picture begins to become clear. Here was a man who was truly ‘heroic’. Maybe he was even god-like.

This feeling is best communicated through the soundtrack composed by Antonio Pinto. The piece A Morte below accompanies the pictures of Senna’s broken car.

I love the way the music suggests mystical jackals appear when they realise the man is dead and they can take him on his transcendent journey.

Diane Athill suggested we should spend 20 minutes each day contemplating our own death. It’s difficult to find an appropriate way to do this, but to listen to Pinto’s soundtrack is a good place to start.