February 7, 2023

Short film: Marcus Soderlund’s McLaren 50 – Courage @thefifthdriver

We’re in a hazy English summer’s day. It could be the beginning of a music video. We wait for the guitars to kick in as the camera follows a figure in white overalls walk across the grass. He could be the lead singer looking for the band on a Glastonbury afternoon. But he speaks when the lyrics should have started. We start to concentrate on the hypnotic slightly Australian voice. Slowly the figure removes his retro helmet, throws his ear plugs to the ground. All the time the camera follows, framing his upper body. We’re unable to see who it is, but he announces ‘I’m a racing driver‘ and we see that he is walking around a circuit.

The camera stays back so we can see the whole figure, before cutting to a plane overhead – the only time in the four minute film that Bruce McLaren isn’t in the frame. When we return to the track there are bits of debris on the tarmac. As McLaren walks along the track we see the horrendous skid marks that veered off the track.  It might seem strange to focus on the death of the founder of the great McLaren motor sport team, but the film reveals the human back-story of the company and explains why it is so steeped in racing tradition. McLaren was only 32 when he died in 1970 and Soderlund has tried to capture what he believes is how McLaren looked at the world, showing him back at the scene of his death like an angel in Wings of Desire.

The script is spoken softly and draws the listener in to the story. Soderlund has created a dreamy, pastel-coloured picture about that manages to be inspirational. At the end the viewer is not overcome by the waste of the lost young life but rather the words of McLaren who almost wrote his own epitaph when he said to do something well is so worthwhile that to die trying to do it better cannot be foolhardy. Indeed, life is not measured in years alone but in achievement. 

Watch the film here

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