Boris Becker: The Rise and Fall is the second documentary this year examining Becker’s life.
In April, Alex Gibney’s film Boom! Boom! The World vs Boris Becker was released.
A comparison between the two documentaries favours Boom! Boom! by a long way. Gibney presents an imaginative, insightful and cleverly edited portrait of a man sometimes in personal and financial chaos but possessed of extraordinary tennis talent. The film features excerpts of Becker’s greatest matches often accompanied by his own analysis.
According to the promotional material for Boris Becker: The Rise and Fall, it’s “a story of greed, egotism, arrogance and chronic sexual infidelity. Above all, it’s the story of the destructive power of fame…”
Produced by ITV and Finestripe Productions for English streaming service ITVX, and directed by Stephen Finnigan, the documentary spends a lot of time in its two 60 minute episodes hearing from Becker’s exes – though not Barbara; she appears exclusively in Boom! Boom! and is good value, sharing her memories and perceptions and occasionally contradicting her former husband’s recollections.
The Rise and Fall relies on Sharlely Becker, who was married to Boris for nine years. Her story provides the bookends and many other segments for the documentary. Perhaps her most interesting offering is that Becker used to hide the horses at his Mallorca estate in the marital bedroom to avoid paying taxes on them.
Several of his other former partners are also interviewed and occasionally there is some tennis.
The most interesting interviewee is 1987 Wimbledon champion Pat Cash. With his typical bluntness he says, “Superstars who’ve been big when they’re kids, it’s always a disaster waiting to happen”.
Later, when discussing the 1985 Wimbledon final he reveals, “I was jealous of this hot shot German who was younger than me. I was hoping Kevin [Curran] would win.”
Unfortunately, an opportunity was missed to ask Cash about the 1988 Wimbledon quarter final where he lost 4-6, 3-6, 4-6 and congratulated Becker at the net with a surly “Well played, smartarse” – before turning up for the press conference wearing a red wig; “If you can’t beat them, join them”.
Cash is more reflective now that his playing career is over. “Boris is the most complete player that I’ve ever played,” he says, “It’s an incredible career, at the age of 17 to be able to do what he did. I don’t know if anyone will ever see that again. He was one heck of a player.”
There is no unique vision of Becker in the documentary, it’s all file footage. And the chopping back and forth between large blocks of time is not helpful to the story telling.
Most importantly, Becker was a participant in Gibney’s Boom! Boom! documentary, granting in-depth interviews filmed in 2019 and 2022.
He was not interviewed at all for The Rise and Fall. His sole contribution is the series of eight written denials at the end, probably devised by his lawyer, in a right of reply to what has been said about him, including the bit about hiding horses in the bedroom.
Boris Becker: The Rise and Fall is, as it’s tagline states, “His story told by those who know him best. His friends, his coaches and his women.” Just not by him.
Images: ITV/Finestripe Productions