Ferrari is the latest film by Michael Mann, which had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival. It’s a project that the director has dreamed about for decades, but now it has finally come to fruition, with Adam Driver as Enzo Ferrari and Penelope Cruz as his wife, Laura. His mistress, Lina Lardi, is portrayed by Shailene Woodley. The film is set in the summer of 1957 when the auto empire is in dire straits. Bankruptcy is looming, and his marriage with Laura is strenuous as well, not least considering his constant affairs. To regain the company’s power, he decides to bet everything on the thousand-mile race, the iconic Mille Miglia, which stretches across Italy.
The family’s loss is not limited to pecuniary values. They also lost their son Alfredo. We follow Enzo during his daily visits to Alfredo’s resting place. Laura goes there on her own. The marriage is mostly for show, and Laura explains that she only demands that her husband be back in the apartment before breakfast. They co-own the company, meaning that Enzo is reliant on her good mood. Meanwhile, Lina has given birth to Enzo’s child. This is a domestic and financial drama more than anything else. In many ways, Ferrari is closer to The Insider (1999) than to any of the director’s action films. In a talk with Denis Villeneuve, Mann mentioned Caravaggio. as a reference.
Who is the Driver of the Ferrari?
This is confirmed by the cinematographer, Eric Messerschmidt. He talks about how they were going for a painterly look in the parts about Ferrari while aiming for a more aggressive lensing for the racing. The images are magnificent throughout, not least in the interior scenes, which alone would have made the film a must-see. Combined with the visceral and exhilarating depiction of the driving, it’s one of the best-shot films of the year. It also manages to convey the driving force not only behind Enzo, but the drivers as well. Not in the sense that we are handed a simplistic explanation of their risk-taking, but their incentives become palpable. The sense of mystery is still intact.
There have been complaints about Adam Driver’s Italian accent and other trivialities. His performance is actually surprisingly strong, even for someone who is normally weary of his acting qualities. Penélope Cruz is perfect as Laura, creating a multi-faceted portrait of a powerful person without resorting to the strong woman tropes that are far too prevalent today. The acting is generally fine, including Patrick Dempsey as one of the drivers. Ferrari is Man’s first film since the ill-received Blackhat in 2015.1Blackhat has been somewhat reassessed since then. It is a reminder that Mann is among the few American masters still working. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait another eight years for his next feature.
Seen at the Black Nights Film Festival in Tallinn.