Monday, 3 July 2017

Whiplash (2014)

Fig 1 - Whiplash Poster
Whiplash is the second film by writer/director Damien Chazelle, who shot to fame in 2016 as a result of the phenomenally successful La La Land. The film stars Miles Teller as Andrew, a talented young music student with little else on his mind than drumming. J.K. Simmons plays Fletcher, a notoriously brutal jazz conductor at his school, who sees great potential in Andrew's abilities and chooses to mentor him alongside the second-year players. Andrew is soon subjected to Fletcher's painstakingly precise standards and finds himself caught up in the quagmire of an abusive relationship that tests the boundaries of his mental and physical health. Ultimately, Andrew is forced to decide whether becoming "one of the greats" is worth risking his sanity at the hands of his sadistic teacher whilst fighting the impulse to give up on his dreams altogether...

The film won three Oscars at the 87th Academy Awards, including Best Sound Mixing, Best Editing and Best Supporting Actor by J.K. Simmons.

I remember first seeing Whiplash in my second year of university and have since reveled in the chance to show the film to others. Incidentally, if any sequence of moving images has the ability to motivate someone to reach their full potential, this is it. I can safely say that this film alone managed to awaken within me the drive to achieve the near-impossible tasks I set myself on an animation course, and for that reason it will always have a place in my heart. I say this as someone with next to no interest at all in drumming, which proves just how powerful a film Whiplash is.

Fig 2 - Whiplash - Fletcher and Andrew
It's quite literally blood, sweat and tears from the get-go and doesn't let up until the credits roll. Even having seen the film more times than I can count, I still watch today with my heart in my mouth - unable to breathe in fear that Andrew might slip up yet unable to look away from Teller's electric performance. The film exudes class with it's lively jazz soundtrack to the rhythm of New York's bustling cityscape, whilst maintaining a black and gold palette mixed with the occasional spatter of blood. Not a moment is spared in following the momentum of the narrative, which sees Andrew go from a regular, passionate musician to an ego-maniac isolated by his own desire for glory.

What I've found most interesting from repeat viewings of the film is just how much my perspective has shifted since the first watch. Initially, I hated Fletcher - but now, as inappropriate as his methods are, I have found myself empathising with his character a great deal more. He himself states that he is trying to "push people beyond what is expected of them" and models himself on the principal that it is a "necessity" to do so. Obviously it is wrong to slap kids and throw chairs at them, but his essential message is one of commitment that, I think, is clouded by the 'shock-factor' of first seeing him endlessly humiliating his students. On the whole, Simmons is captivating to watch and managed to reinvigorate his career with this performance which deliberately leaves you on the fence as to whether or not he is the film's true antagonist.

Ultimately, Whiplash is a near-perfect example of cinematic bliss that will leave you breathless right up to the final shot. With fantastic performances, cinematography, music and editing all rolled into one intense experience, the film stands as one of my all-time favourites and has me on tenterhooks awaiting whatever Chazelle has around the corner.


Fig. 1 Whiplash Poster (2014) From: Whiplash (2014) - Directed by: Damien Chazelle

Fig. 2 Whiplash Screenshot (2014) From: Whiplash (2014) - Directed by: Damien Chazelle

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