Warning: this article contains spoilers for Ferrari.
That’s what we call finishing on a high note. Even though most of Michael Mann’s new film Ferrari takes place behind the scenes of the titular Italian car manufacturer as Enzo Ferrari (Adam Driver) faces both personal and professional problems, there are also several exciting racing scenes – and the last one is quite fatal.
Ferrari culminates with a reenactment of the 1957 Mille Miglia, in which one of the Ferrari drivers lost control of his car and crashed into spectators. The scene is absolutely gruesome in the film, including shots of severed corpses lying in the street afterward.
“I have toned down one or two elements of what happened,” Mann told EW. “Out of respect, I wanted to film it in a very factual way, like we were a news camera that saw this coming and just followed it. No multiple cuts, which I thought would have been free.
Although he “softened” the horrific nature of the accident, Mann knew all the technical details of what happened. He is concerned with accuracy, whether he describes the tools of jewelry theft in Thief or recreate the 60 minutes office for The insiderMann went to the source to find out the truth about what happened in 1957.
“There have been many different accounts of what happened in this accident,” Mann says. “A gentleman from the Ferrari factory named Gabriele Lolli, who is one of the managers of their restoration division, went to the prefecture and dug up all the police reports. He investigated the accident for three years. It was the most detailed forensic examination imaginable, and that’s how we knew exactly what had happened: that the tire had gone flat, that it had hit a mile marker which launched the car into the air, which it was doing between 140 and 160 when it hit a telephone pole.
As for driver Alfonso de Portago (played by Gabriel Leone in the film), Mann says: “The cables may have severed his body. We don’t know how it happened, but they found his body in three pieces. This is also typically what happens to human anatomy in an air disaster, because there isn’t much connecting your thorax to your pelvis.
This explains the physical horror of the scene, but the emotional punch comes from elsewhere: the young boy who runs to see the cars because he is so excited about the race, only to find himself caught up in the accident. This story came first-hand, thanks to Mann’s filming Ferrari in the Italian locations where the real events took place.
“When I went to the Guidizzolo site where this actually happened, there is a long straight road and a farm. An elderly man came out of the house and asked us what we were doing, in Italian. Thanks to the translators, he told us that he was present at the accident,” says Mann. “He said he was three years old. They had a typical Italian dinner on Sunday around 4 p.m. His older brother, who was faster than him, ran away because the cars were coming and was killed. That’s when I decided to shoot the scene with the family and the three-year-old toddler. He would have been three years old.
Mann continues: “You encounter these things when you do research. And I was just emotionally moved to create that scene.
Following the accident, the film shows Enzo facing a police investigation and a media scandal. He suddenly finds relief in the form of his estranged wife, Laura Ferrari (Penelope Cruz), who presents him with a clear plan of action – in exchange for some of the guarantees she has been seeking for much of the film. It is both a business transaction and a gesture of love.
“I really like that scene because when I read it and saw the direction Michael was giving me, I feel like ultimately he’s a romantic,” said Cruz told EW. “He told me via email about this underground community of women who continue to live in the shadows of men. This is not an old topic, it is not a problem that has been resolved. I realized what a love letter he was writing to all women in similar positions, and I felt very honored that he had chosen me to give this woman that voice.
Ferrari is in theaters now.
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