No motors to greet you, but the unmistakable sound of air bubbles rising to the surface. Then the camera captures the Schumacher family on a diving excursion. Father Michael, mother Corinna, son Mick and daughter Gina with hair blowing underwater. A turtle is circling over a coral reef, Michael Schumacher tries to grip its right hind fin, the turtle is faster. This is how it starts. And that makes two things clear in the overture. The documentation Schumacher is not just a story about the seven-time Formula 1 world champion. It is a family story. And the filmmakers won’t just show pictures. You will let pictures speak at the points where the Schumachers continue to be silent.
A racing driver went underground. Disappeared. From one second to the next. As if he had blown the air out of his jacket to be pulled down by his weight belt. At least that is how it affects the people who sit up in the boat and search the surface of the sea for Michael Schumacher. Out of a curiosity that always touches voyeurism a little. Because even years after Schumacher’s catastrophic fall in December 2013, people still do not want to understand the cynicism of the world race. How can someone practice the most dangerous sport in the world for years almost unharmed, and then suffer a traumatic brain injury while doing the mundane activity of skiing? As an excellent skier. With helmet. “I never blamed God for why that happened now. It was just really bad luck,” says Corinna Schumacher. “You can’t have more bad luck in life.”
How is he? Can he go Can he move? Anyone who hopes to find answers to these questions from the documentary, which can be seen on Netflix from September 15, will be disappointed. Because that was also the condition of the Schumachers when they agreed to lower the drawbridge on their property in Gland on Lake Geneva in order to let in the directors Hanns-Bruno Kammertöns, Vanessa Nöcker and Michael Wech. But if you get emotionally involved in this technically excellent documentation, you will receive something much more valuable: an understanding of why the Schumachers built a fortress around father Michael and have not let anyone drag it down to this day. “We try to carry on in our family, as Michael liked,” says Corinna Schumacher. She is the secret protagonist of the film. Modest, humorous, approachable. With the strength of a she-bear she tells incredibly personal things about her husband: “Private is private, as he always said. Michael has always protected us. And now we protect Michael.”
As if to prove it, one of the scenes shows how Schumacher hastily strides through the paddock at the beginning of his world career. Cameras and microphones form a trellis, Schumacher looks back and forth like an antelope fleeing from a pride of lions. His voice can also be heard off-screen: “When I started, I said: Don’t make a star out of me, don’t lift me up so high. I don’t want that!” He just wanted to go racing. And when he wasn’t racing, he wanted peace and quiet. Withdraw.
112 minutes of “Schumacher” are well used to demonstrate that it was the son of a chimney maker from Kerpen-Manheim himself who made a star of himself. The filmmakers interviewed fellow drivers and companions of Schumacher, rummaged through the Formula 1 archives in London and those of the family. There they found moving images of a lanky 15-year-old who, according to the fashion of the time, tucked his T-shirt into his jeans and was delighted to have won 696 marks on the podium. The young kart master explains that he fished the tires out of the garbage that other drivers had thrown away. “I was always happy that I won with the worst material, never the best,” he says. In addition to a few platitudes (“Michael is from the zodiac sign Capricorn. And Capricorn men …”), the long-time manager Willi Weber is also allowed to present something worth hearing: How he was eating pizza with him on the eve of Schumacher’s Formula 1 debut in Spa. “The square was full of 400, 500 people and nobody spoke to us. That was the last time nobody spoke to us.”
Schumacher’s dark tricks on the way to the top of all the leaderboards in his sport are also touched upon. 27 years later, the Briton himself smugly commented on his deliberate bump into Damon Hill in Adelaide in 1994. Schumacher’s ramming blow against Jacques Villeneuve in Jerez in 1997, for whom he was excluded from the championship ranking, is classified by former driver Mark Webber as a “paranoid sense of perfection”. Ultimately, Schumacher only drove against himself. “He always asked himself: How do I destroy the competition?”
The authors devote a lot of time to May 1, 1994. The day Ayrton Senna died made Schumacher number one in Formula 1 in the year he won the title for the first time. Senna had to cross the finish line in Imola before Schumacher to get a realistic chance to maintain the world championship. The documentation uses the hunter’s gaze. Schumacher’s on-board camera shows Senna trying to escape from him. Before the Tamburello bend, sparks strike between his Williams and the asphalt. You can see Schumacher stopping and getting out. Then Senna, how he can no longer get out. A helicopter takes him to the hospital. The race starts again, Schumacher wins. Shortly before the podium ceremony, he learns that Senna is in a coma. No champagne, no cheers. But the anthem runs anyway.
When he heard hours after the race that Senna had lost the fight, Schumacher said he didn’t want to admit it. “I couldn’t believe he was dead. I just thought he was going to be champion again. He might miss a race or two, then he’ll come back.” Then he comes back again. Schumacher reflects on Senna. But just as the scene is arranged by the authors, he also directs his wishes to the now 52-year-old convalescent in Gland.
As the story approaches the day of Schumacher’s unlucky day in Méribel, it draws back into symbolism. Director Nöcker’s idea was to “move away from the reportage-like style entirely and to hint at it with strong, large images,” says producer Benjamin Seikel. So now snow-capped peaks, the shadow of a gondola. Then a sentence by Corinna Schumacher, heavy as lead. In the morning her husband suggested: “The snow is not ideal, we could fly to Dubai.”
At the end of the diving sequence, the audience races aboard Schumacher’s Ferrari. It’s gloomy, you can hardly see anything. The racing car shoots through the tunnel under the Fairmont Hotel in Monte Carlo, and for racing drivers it is one of the toughest tests of all. At 290 km / h it goes into the darkness, the pupils are dilated. Then Schumacher rushes out again at the other end, the sunlight is dazzling. The tunnel is a symbol of hope. As Corinna Schumacher says in the film Schumacher, which should actually be called “The Schumachers”? “Everyone misses Michael. But Michael is there. Different, but he is there. We live at home together, we give therapy. We do everything so that Michael is better and doing well.”