***POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD***
AT THE CORE...
Exhilarating! Enthralling! Electrifying! Visceral! Intense! Gripping! Dripping with Brutal Passion. These are the thoughts I was left with after viewing Whiplash. When I saw Whiplash for the first time I was floored. Floored with determination and ambition. Rekindled by the physical viscera that was portrayed in this riveting work of moving imagery. A film of percussive nostalgia, calling upon the energy of a dying genre of music. On the surface, It's a story about boy with one dream... A universal dream... Which is "To be ONE of the greats” as he so casually told his girlfriend Nicole before dumping her.
The film follows 19 year old Andrew Neimann, a small town kid with dreams far beyond his native environment. His father is a writer who teaches creative writing to high schoolers. His mother left when he was young. He still goes to movies with his father as that is something they shared as a past time since Andrew's youth. His father frequently calls to check on him against Andrew’s will. He's shy and not confident for fear of vulnerability. Coming from a family of under achievers, Andrew's story has ALL the makings of a kid still clinging to a part of himself that is afraid to let go and become his own.
At the moment, The only place he seems free is in front of the drum set. It's when he's released. But that would soon would become his prison.
In many ways I saw myself on that screen.
To be great takes hard work. Talent only gets people in the door... But it's the blood spilled to achieve a higher level of talent that separates the good from the great.
At some moments, I Identified with his love and equal dependency for his father’s complacent comfort. He didn't have the support and guidance he needed through his career, therefore his time spent with his father was a cathartic release of normalcy that kept his mind at ease and able to breath in between studies.
As with my father, Their pastime they shared was going to the movies together. Therapy on the road to physical greatness. But to get there, Andrew subconsciously knew he needed to adopt a more brutally honest father figure who understood him, to get him to the end of that road. Cinematically speaking, this is why the story works so well.
Drumming is a physical task. Cinema is a Visual craft. Cinema progresses in story through the world of movement. Whether it's film running through a lens, or action within a frame. It's all physical movements by nature. Whiplash is a film, who's story is a manifestation of physical progress. When we first meet Andrew, he is drumming away at his set, practicing. From this moment we bear witness to a kid that that will go to far lengths to be great – and is willing to push himself to arrive there. Little did he know that there was going to be someone more relentless and unforgiving to push him past his limits. Little did he know that Fletcher, his dark angel… was right around the corner. It's the perfect setup for a very tumultuous relationship. I believe that most "great", standout, exceptional people have a fearless, unforgiving, obsession of dedication towards their craft of choice. Andrew was equally obsessed with being great, locked in a shell of insecurity when we first meet him. Then along comes Fletcher equally obsessed with greatness... But at the physical and mental expense of others. Riveting! Through Fletcher, kids become either better than they imagined, or they fall by the wayside. Fletcher blends physical and mental brutality to push his students to their limits. There is a moment, following Andrew leaving his sticks and getting into an accident, when it goes to far between Fletcher and Andrew.They get into a physical altercation on a stage in from of an audience.
Following this is a startling moment of truth in this destructive relationship is when Andrew gives up Fletcher as an abuser to students. This initially was a reluctant admission for the character. At first when asked whether or not Fletcher physically and mentally harmed his students (Despite everyone knowing the truth) Andrew responded “No”. He even was a but upset with his father for taking it this far. This is interesting because this proves that Andrew knew and appreciated Fletcher’s method to some extent, because it pushed him to be better… but He eventually gave him up. He did so because now He was expelled from school, and Fletcher was the catalyst for stripping away the one thing Andrew set out to achieve for his career. So he did. Fletcher indirectly was the father figure Andrew needed for his career. Pitting two characters who are extremely similar and extremely opposite, against one another is a battle of strength, tenacity, witt, and intellect – Especially when one is out to mentally oppress the other. But bother are out to achieve greatness in their own right.
A piece of the energy of this film has much to do with the movement of camera, Space, and action within in the frame. These components seem to flow together seamlessly to create electrifying moments of intensity, sewn with pensive moments of stillness and Silence. Damien Chazelle (Director) and Tom Cross (Editor), crafted this film through pace and rhythm. There is a moment when Andrew and Nicole are at a pizza place talking. There is a moment between them when Andrew responds to her insensitively… this moment heightened by the lingering silence in from a wide, to two reactions cutting back and forth between the two of them. But these shots lingering a few seconds longer than usual and it makes the awkwardness of their first date (and personalities) shine through perfectly. It also foreshadows, the future friction of their relationship. Another moment is when Andrew forgets his drum sticks at the car rental facility. This moments is told specifically through rough jump cuts and inserts. Simple, but VERY effective in the moment. The same applies to the film’s climax at the JVC… when Andrew finally comes into his own and decides to let go to become one of the greats.
This film struck close to heart for me. Not only was it a thrilling piece of psychological cinema… but I saw myself standing firmly in Andrew’s shoes. For me, Fletcher is my conscience, and Andrew is me in the physical world. Andrew’s father is mine, Our trips to the Theaters are ours. The shame that I still longed to to take those trips was once mine. The breakup with his girlfriend Nicole was many of my past relationships. His desire, his crave, his drive, his thirst, his ambition to be ONE of the greats… continues to be mine.
If you ever want to know a little bit about my dedication to my craft... If you want to know how and why most of my past relationships ended… If you want to see a physical representation of what my dedication to my craft looks like... then go see “WHIPLASH”. You won’t be disappointed.