Kapadia is excellent at opening up their personality and showing it fleetingly but thoughtfully
Coming from director Asif Kapadia, known for his work on the award winning Senna and Amy, Diego Maradona is an eye-opening look at the (disputed) world’s greatest footballer’s time at Napoli, a mediocre Italian league team, during the 1980’s and the early 90’s. Plagued by stardom, brush-ins with the mafia and Class A drugs, Maradona is still a deeply divisive character to this day, enhanced enormously by his tumultuous time in Naples.
There’s a clear message from those who knew Maradona during this time: He had two sides. A public, showy side to his personality that directly juxtaposed his quiet nature in his private life. Referred to as Maradona and Diego by his former coach, Naples life only extended the gap between these two characters, with Kapadia’s feature not just setting this out from the beginning, but ensuring it is remembered constantly through the entire piece. Napoli broke apart these two characters, removing all ties they had to each other, exposing Maradona to the world in a completely unprecedented way.
Kapadia’s film doesn’t want to tell Maradona’s story. It isn’t interested in purely documenting the historic moments in his life, these are already known almost universally; instead it wants to show why these happened, expose the exposition Diego was thrust into, and the enormity of the personality he became.
And for that, the feature creates a particularly engaging recreation and vision of how Maradona would have seemed to the public at the time, from multiple angles. Becoming a common theme of Kapadia’s work, he shows his understanding that these people aren’t fully visible from just one viewpoint, and need these angles to create a 3-D model of what they are, and who they are. Far more fascinating than their public image, Kapadia is excellent at opening up their personality and showing it fleetingly but thoughtfully, and powerfully. His character profile creation is second to none in modern cinema.
Capturing the maverick nature of Maradona, the split in his personality and revealing that he is of course still human, even to this day, was frightfully important, and Kapadia has managed that with exquisite tone and understanding. His passion is unrelenting, and by creating a film about one of the world’s greatest ever technical athletes, for an audience that don’t necessarily need a love of sport to enjoy, is both refreshing but now expected of his impressive documentary creation.
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