Whenever I talk about film with a friend or acquaintance, they tend to ask what my favourite film of all time is and the answer, for me, is simple. Whiplash by Damien Chazelle. Usually, no one knows exactly what this film is – even though it was a fucking Oscar nomination but okay… So I explain.
Me: “Oh, its about this kid, played by Miles Teller, who is at college and he wants to be a drummer and gets invited into this prestigious orchestra run by J.K.Simmons and he’s and arsehole.”
You/Everyone who knows nothing about the film: “That sounds super boring”
Me: *internally dying*
Yes, Whiplash is about a kid who wants to be a drummer and has a shitty mentor but trust me…and anyone who has watched the film will tell you… THIS FILM IS SOME OF THE MOST INTENSE SHIT I HAVE EVER SEEN AND ITS JUST ABOUT DRUMMING
But its not about drumming. Well it is, but its not just about drumming; its about obsession and the drive to be the best in your field and the mental strain it puts on people.
Have you ever wanted something so badly that you are willing to go to hell and back and then back again to get it? That is what this film is about at its core. Andrew (Teller) wants to be the Buddy Rich of his time and gets invited into the creme de la creme of orchestras at his college by Fletcher (Simmons). Andrew is excited at first until Fletcher become violent; both physically and mentally. He tortures Andrew under the guise that he’s trying to help him be the best he can be and then be better than that. There are scenes where Andrew breaks down and plays himself bloody (literally) and it ruins almost every relationship in his life. Andrew’s decent into madness is the focal point of the film and its almost heartbreaking to watch, even as he pulls himself out of a car accident and runs to the venue so he can perform his part, blood running down his face and covering his hands. He’s a man obsessed and he can’t be stopped.
What sets this film apart is the tone and atmosphere created throughout. Even though its ‘just about drumming’ the whole way through you feel tense and on edge, almost as if you were watching a horror film. You’re filled with dread all the way through and things just get worse and worse and just when you think Andrew is free, he gets sucked right back in. Nothing captivates the tone of the film more than the final 10-15 minutes, where you are hoping and praying that Andrew is okay. You want him to prove that he is good enough to Fletcher but in doing so, he also proves that he isn’t free after all, that he is still under the control of this man.
And when the film cuts to black, you’re left confused about whether the ending was a good one or a bad one. And that is why Chazelle is a master of filmmaking.
If you haven’t seen Whiplash then please do. You will not regret it and it really is a fantastic piece of film. And if you have seen it, let me know your thoughts on the film in the comments. I love talking about it and am always looking for opportunities to talk about it more.
As always, thanks for reading guys and I’ll see you next time.
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