Heading into a documentary knowing near-to-nothing about the person whom the documentary is centred is a hard feat. Even more so when the person’s life is celebrated extensively due to a specific sport, cycling — something I also know near-to-nothing about. So it really goes for something when you walk away from a 96 minute film feeling both saddened and inspired to know about such an iconic individual — and counts largely towards my efforts in the gym today.
Marco Pantani won the Giro d’Italia and Tour De France in 1998, an achievement no other person has succeeded in since due to the incredible tests of endurance and sheer will. Celebrated and idolised by millions, Pantani became a household name in the cycling, and sporting, world, though doping allegations thwarted his success and sent the man into a downward spiral, sadly ending his life in 2004.
Director James Erskine isn’t a newcomer to the documentary genre, ably telling the stories of others (all of which seem to be in a sporting background — his adoration for sport is noted) whilst keeping a heavy idea that what he’s telling ensures a universal audience will be enticed enough to make it to the end.
Pantani’s story is that of willpower and tolerance, told through exciting stock footage of cycling and tacked onto the usual narrative of those closest to the sport and the goings on at that time telling us their thoughts. It’s educational, sure, and by the time you hit the final notes of Pantani’s life there’s a real sadness that when this once great athlete, adored by millions, fell ungracefully off his winning streak, he was dumped and left to rot by those who revelled in his fandom.
Pantani is displayed as nothing more than an incredible testament to the sport, though where the film falls is that this man is certifiably a money making machine, churning out the fans and the stardom and paralleling that of an item than a real person. Erskine’s attempts at humanising this idol are belittled by the lack of characterisation of the man, therefore, whilst still incredibly sad, his cocaine-related spiral to the grave doesn’t have quite as big of an impact as one might have expected.
An interesting introduction to the sport and the man himself, Pantani’s efforts are unparalleled. Erskine’s take on the story is an informative piece, though would have benefited from a clearer and more objectifying look into the final moments of Pantani’s life.
Dir: James Erskine
Writers: James Erskine, Oliver Parsons
Prd: James Erskine, Victoria Gregory
Music: Lorne Balfe
Runtime: 96 minutes
Pantani: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist is available now on DVD and to stream at We Are Colony