Weekend Of A Champion
Questions to explore after watching Roman Polanski’s 2013 documentary Jackie Stewart: Weekend Of A Champion;
- How is the documentary structured?
- Questions that are asked?
- How does it remain impartial?
- Does it raise more questions than answers?
- Do you have an emotional tie to the film?
1) Weekend Of A Champion is a fly on the wall-style documentary filmed by Roman Polanski during the Monaco Grand Prix in May 1971. After the conclusion of that race weekend, Roman and Jackie look back on that time 40 years later as older men and discuss not only those events, but of Jackie’s background and the modern era of the sport of motor racing.
2) Even though Polanski should, in theory, be vocally dictating the content of the questioning and content, it is Jackie Stewart who is the voice of the documentary- giving his insight and thoughts to give context and direction to a scene without prior questions being raised on camera. It is a fluid style with an example found at the start, where Stewart is giving a track guide around Monte Carlo, seeming not only to talk to Roman, but the audience as well. Jackie is also seen asking questions to other individuals, eg the competition winner. It is not until the 20 minute mark where Roman asks a question to Jackie about the safety of their viewing position near the circuit. As they are close friends, the questioning is more conversational and observational; eg, ”When I watch you practice, you look the slowest…” Again, because they are close friends, the style of questions and the rapport is deeper and obtained without effort; this is evident when Stewart opens up to Roman about him hiding the fact he was dyslexic and not able to read or write correctly at the time of filming.
3) The film is rather one-sided due to the fact Jackie Stewart is the main focus of the documentary, although it does look at the spectacle of Monaco aswell. Roman shows the man behind the racing driver. To give a broader view of the event, figures such as Francois Cervert, Helen Stewart, Graham Hill and the Tyrell team as a whole are also represented.
4) The film does a very good job of answering more questions than it raises and ties up the documentary very well. As a non-motor racing enthusiast, some questions which may be drawn from watching Weekend Of A Champion could be a more in-depth look into Jackie’s career- particular events after Monaco ’71 and possibly a look at Formula One in the modern era, however, both points are touched on briefly during the conversation at the end of the film.
5) As a Formula One fan, I instantly hold a connection with the film, and thus, an emotional tie. But, for those who aren’t, the subject matter could evoke emotion. This is based on two themes; safety during that era of the sport and driver fatalities because of how dangerous F1 was back in the 60’s & 70’s. Many drivers lost their lives which Jackie’s doctor Mr. J Marti talks about, saying how Stewart had lost 3 close friends in a year. When sat looking back on that time, Jackie spoke of having a 2 in 3 chance of dying during a 5 year period back in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s- this is shocking and hard to comprehend the seriousness of those odds men like Jackie had to face whilst racing. This is intensified by looking at safety in the modern era and the steps Jackie Stewart took to help increase safety of todays racing drivers- and how, luckily, many are able to walk away from truly unbelievable incidents, most noticeably Robert Kubica’s horrific crash at Montreal and Mark Webber flipping in the air and shunting the barrier at 130mph at Valencia. Finally, the death of Francois Cervert after the Monaco Grand Prix is probably the most emotional point as Stewart was not only Cervert’s team-mate at Tyrell, but also his friend and teacher to his protegé. Even Roman Polanski confesses that after Francois’ death, he lost interest in the sport.