Fans of motor racing legend Peter Brock may want to strap themselves in, because the new documentary about his life – due to be released tomorrow – could be a bumpy ride.
Kriv Stenders, the director of the new documentary Brock: Over The Top, says the film is an honest appraisal and gives a "360 degree view" of the nine-times Bathurst winner's early life and motor racing career.
In an interview with CarAdvice, Stenders says Brock: Over the Top is not a film that advocates or denigrates the heroic myth of the Australian racing car driver, but rather provides an in-depth look into Brock's 61 years on earth. As well as his many talents, strengths, and wins, Brock's faults in his early personal life are also well documented.
"It was very much trying to unwrap this idea that we put these sorts of guys on pedestals. And ultimately, maybe that's not good for us, and that's not good for them. I think that was the case for Brock. I think – in spite of his success and fame and money – he struggled with it, especially in the last part of his life," said Stenders.
The film interviews Brock's partners, his closest family members, and his on-track rivals to give the audience a full picture of the person many of us knew as the charismatic racing car driver from TV – the man who drove across the top of the Bathurst race track with his elbow on the window frame.
Director Kriv Stenders.
Being an Australian cultural icon, Peter Brock's story isn't new or untold. It's been covered extensively in articles, books, and a made-for-TV biopic miniseries that leaned more towards drama than accuracy.
However, the documentary aims to address aspects of the image of 'Peter Perfect'.
Brock's celebrity, despite the country's widespread adoration of the man, seemed to be marred in backyard rumour, whispers around the often bizarre turn of events his life took, and the unavoidable claims that he was violent against his second wife.
"I felt like a lot of the stuff that had been done before and what I'd seen hadn't really covered the length and breadth and depth of his story, and I really wanted to make the definitive Brock film. As I call it a 360 degree view," said Stenders.
"I really wanted to deconstruct the myth and look at the man inside the myth, rather than the myth itself. So it was a chance to do something that I don't think anyone has done before. From nought to 100. The whole scope of the story. When I started breaking it down looking into it it was incredibly dramatic – it's like a Shakespeare play. There's betrayal, there's victory, there's death – it's got everything in it. It was a chance to paint on a really big canvas."
Despite the many retellings of Brock's life over the years, he remains a hero to his fans.
"I grew up with Brock. It was inescapable. It was part of my childhood, it was a permanent fixture of that landscape of my youth. So I was familiar with him, but I wasn't coming at him from the point of view of a car enthusiast."
Best known for his films Red Dog, Boxing Day, and Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan, Stenders appears to be enchanted by Australian stories in everything he does. His next film being released is about Slim Dusty.
"I'm Australian, I've grown up in Australia and grown up loving Australian films and loving Australian stories. I think we have to tell our own stories, and we have to keep investigating ourselves and talking about our past: who we are, where we're going, what we're becoming. And I think that's why I make movies. I learn from making them and hopefully the audience learns something from watching them. These Australian stories are unique. They're our characters. And we're exposing them and shining a light on them."
Australia had a lot of heroes and cultural icons in decades past, including Peter Brock and the Holden brand. But with the death of Holden, Ford shutting production locally, and many of our national heroes either passing away or retiring, the question of our national identity seems more pertinent now than ever.
"I think there always has been a national identity and there always will be one. We're always reinventing it. We're always rediscovering it. I think that's my role as a filmmaker, as a story-maker, to keep these ideas alive. Nothing's static. Nothing ever stays constant. Things are always changing. Things are always evolving. It's very important more than ever now to really embrace that and work out what it is. We've always got to keep questioning and reinventing ourselves."
For many fans, the documentary will be a chance to view previously unseen archival footage Stenders uncovered when making the film.
"A documentary you're working from the outside in. You see what you've got, find archives, and then you work out 'how can this connect?' So it's a completely different way of working. I liken it a bit to being a detective. You're always looking for clues. You find something, you find some great archives, and that unlocks a whole other way to both tell the story, and also unlocks a whole lot of information, and a story that you didn't know existed. It's a very organic, very unpredictable, and exciting process. That's what we did with Brock, we slowly built it and searched for the parts for it."
So what of Peter Brock's legacy, the King of the Mountain?
"I think he'll be remembered as being an incredible racing car driver – an extraordinarily talented driver – but I also think he'll be remembered as a human being. As someone who did have faults and was simply a man. He wasn't a saint, he wasn't indestructible, he was flesh and blood."
Brock: Over the Top is available to rent from Friday the 3rd of July, 2020 through Foxtel, Fetch, Apple TV, Google Play, Sony PlayStation, and Microsoft Xbox.