Starring: Ronnie Peterson, Jackie Stewart, Emerson Fittipaldi
Director: Henrik Jansson-Schweizer
Running Time: 88 mins
Superswede (Superswede: En film om Ronnie Peterson) is a Swedish documentary about Formula 1 driver Ronnie Peterson, regarded as one of the fastest talents of his era, before his career was tragically cut short in 1978.
Classic Formula 1 has always proved a brilliant subject for documentaries, with its combination of raw emotion and danger, it’s an immensely exciting and enthralling topic of discussion when it comes to the big screen, and my personal favourite sport on top of that.
In the case of Superswede, the story of legendary driver Ronnie Peterson, the drama and emotion of the sport is put on display in riveting fashion, and although the film’s structure is never particularly magnetic, the personal and emotional touch it gives its story is what makes it such an engrossing watch.
Now, Asif Kapadia’s Senna is the gold standard for all documentaries, let alone those about Formula 1 (it’s the only film on this site with a perfect 10/10 rating), but that doesn’t necessarily mean that all films have to follow the same structure and line of focus.
And while I can’t say that Superswede is anywhere near the exceptional level of Senna, it takes a very different approach to telling the story of a driver at the top of his game in the world’s most competitive racing series, instead choosing to focus more significantly on the personal relationships forged off the track, rather than the heavy on-track emphasis that Senna features.
That’s where the film’s emotional power really comes in, because it paints a beautiful portrait of the community of drivers and more in the F1 paddock, who, despite being fierce competitors with one another, had a strength of friendship that went beyond the on-track action, and Peterson’s relationship with fellow legends such as Emerson Fittipaldi, Jackie Stewart, Mario Andretti, John Watson and more is what really forms the core of the film.
Now, while the story is a decidely bittersweet one, I was moved by just how positive a picture the film paints of Peterson’s career and life, and with a stunning depth of emotion that the interviewees bring to the table in retelling his story, and what part they played in his life, there’s no avoiding being genuinely moved by Superswede, which brings a brilliant dynamic to a documentary that, while an equally exciting look at F1 in the 1970s, is at its best a very personal and intimate portrayal of both a great driver, and all those around him.
The only reservation that I have with the film is that its structure and focus can at times be a little muddled, and while it has stunning moments of incredible emotion and intrigue throughout, it often fails to make the balancing act between on-track and off-track focus a convincing one, occasionally jumping to and fro in far too jarring a manner, and unfortunately taking you out of the trance that some of its most powerful moments can have you tied so deeply in.
Overall, though, Superswede is an excellent documentary, with an interesting and emotionally engrossing look at Formula 1, Ronnie Peterson, and the lives of those around him, not only giving a riveting and powerful portrait of what a great talent and wonderful person he was, but also a wider, more personal portrayal of the emotional bonds formed in the paddock, something that I was absolutely enthralled by throughout, and that’s why I’m giving this a 7.7.