Saturday, April 7, 2012

A Sunday in Hell

De Vlaeminck
If you've got 90 minutes to spare, I can think of worse ways of wiling it away than by watching A Sunday in Hell (directed by Jørgen Leth). It follows the 1976 Paris-Roubaix and makes for some really fascinating viewing.

Unlike most cycling films, the narrator discusses and explores not just the cyclists but also the organisers of the race, the mechanics, the press, the spectators, the doctors and the culture of the sport. It's a truly expansive view of the event.

It's also great to see the kings of the road from the period, namely Eddy Merckx, Roger De Vlaeminck, Freddy Maertens and Francesco Moser, not just as they race but also as they prepare. Merckx overseeing the preparation of his bikes and De Vlaeminck getting a massage and eating a rare steak for breakfast, for example.

Merckx adjusting his stem height. Easier to do in 1976 than now.

There are also protests that disrupt the race, an explanation of tactics and the answer to that time old question; why do pros shave their legs? And of course, there are crashes.

I won't give away the ending, as that's part of the fun in watching it, but I will say that just five years after the race, the 1976 winner died of a heart attack while at home doing a crossword. He was 31-years old. While there was never any evidence of doping, there is little doubt that this was a result of drug use.

Peter Cowie of the International Film Guide described he movie as "Arguably the best film ever made about professional cycling."

Laurence Guttmann of the Weekly Cycle concurs.

No comments:

Post a Comment