I recently sat down to watch a film that a friend had recommended two or more years ago and that I “never got around to.” When that friend reminded me that I should see the film and then pointed out that it’s streaming on Netflix, I didn’t have any more excuses. So despite the very long length (over 200 minutes), I stayed up late one night and watched Enzo Ferrari.
This film was released in 2003 as a made-for-TV drama for Italian television. Directed by Carlo Carlei, this is a dramatic biography of Enzo Ferrari’s life from his earliest days to very near his death. Titled simply Ferrari in Italy, the American release of the film has his full name, Enzo Ferrari, as its title.
Amazingly, this film is not about cars. They’re on the periphery with the man himself being the focus instead. The film begins with Enzo, an old man still stubbornly heading up his company, being visited by a journalist who is working to get background in order to write something about the company and its cars. The journalist manages to get Enzo to open up, telling about his life from the very beginnings.
Enzo talks about how, as a young boy, he began his career tuning and racing. He raced soap sleds (similar to soap box racers, but without the box) and tuned one carefully so he could beat a rival. His love of speed continued and he eventually began racing cars professionally.
The story winds around Enzo Ferrari’s life as a racer, business man, husband, and father. The actors in each role do good work and the continual background music throughout most of the film has a double meaning when you find the twist at the end. Watching carefully, you’ll note that the points where the music is not playing denote something different from the points where it is.
The lead actor Sergio Castellitto does an amazing job and the effects and camera work in this film are beyond top-notch. Enzo Ferrari has some of the best cinematography I’ve seen in a very long time. It’s hard to imagine that this was made for TV and not the big screen.
In the end, the film gives you a good feel for who Ferrari was, as a man, and what he was trying to build. His love of Dino and guilt over his death are poignantly shown and his feelings for the race drivers and their families are shown to have been genuine.
The film holds no punches and doesn’t shy away from showing the human and darker side of Enzo either. He was a cheating husband, an often questionable father, and had the same frailties and weaknesses that most men face at one time or another. The point of Enzo Ferrari was to portray him as human, not an icon on a pestle. This, in the end, is the core of the biopic film and is what makes it great.