Film Director: Damien Chazelle
Damein Chazelle is an American writer and director. He was born in Providence, Rhode Island on 19th January 1985. His father Bernard Chazelle was a computer scientist. Damien, however, inherited his writing skills from his mother Celia Chazelle who is also a writer. In his early life, he was interested in film making and music. He was a drummer at Princeton High School but later on realized his real skills were in line with film making. The musical aspect of his life is dominant in his first film for example the musical Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench. However, the breakthrough in his career came in 2014 with the movie Whiplash which brought him under the spotlight in Hollywood. The movie itself is based on his high school experience as a drummer and his interactions with his instructor.
Whiplash is an injury resulting from the sudden movement of the upper body especially in car accidents. The movie, which released on 23rd October 2014, has been titled Whiplash and has several hidden references to the title for example the tune frequently played in the movie named “whiplash” and later on a car accident where an actual whiplash occurs. Moreover, whiplash also means the lash of a whip and as we go through the movie we realize that the main character is actually quite disturbed because of his instructor being hard and strict on him.
The movie whiplash revolves around a nineteen year old character named Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) who is a first year student at a music school named Shaffer Conservatory. Andrew has a passion for drumming since his childhood and wants to be one of the greatest jazz drummers of all time. The movie starts with Andrew playing his drums as Terrence Fletcher (J.K Simmons) enters the room. Terrence Fletcher is a jazz instructor and runs the school’s top jazz orchestra named Studio Band. His ways are quite radical. He believes that one should always work to become one’s best self and to achieve this, he puts his students through shear trauma and mental abuse.
As the story progresses, the relationship between Andrew and Terrence becomes complicated because of the constant mental stress Terrence puts him through. Terrance kicks Andrew out of his band and belittles Andrew to such an extent that Andrew gives up on Jazz. Later on, Andrew speaks up in private court against Terrence who then loses his job. Soon, Andrew comes across Terrence at a bar where they have a heart to heart conversation and Terrence asks Andrew to play at a private convention in New York. Andrew agrees but the story takes a dramatic turn when he finds out that it was an attempt by Terrence to ruin his career. However, Andrew, with a stroke of brilliance does an amazing drumming solo that even impresses Terrence Fletcher in the end.
The story of the movie is not just unique in itself but also perfectly depicted through brilliant dialogue, incredible cinematography and amazing background music. The movie creates an interest in jazz music even in the most uninterested and disconnected audience. It is not just a film of the music genre but also carries with itself a deeper meaning of perseverance and conquering one’s fears. This fact is constantly represented through its dialogue such as the following:
Terrence Fletcher: “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than “good job”.”
Terrence Fletcher: “I was there to push people beyond what’s expected of them. I believe that’s an absolute necessity.”
Andrew Niemen: “I’d rather die drunk, broke at 34 and have people at a dinner table talk about me than live to be rich and sober at 90 and nobody remembered who I was.”
The situation Andrew faces with his family who do not understand his love for his art is one of the most common one faced by youngsters of his age. Therefore, one can actually relate to what Andrew is going through and can imagine oneself in his place as the center character of the story.
I do not find any particular demerit in the movie except for the fact that the ending of the movie remains unclear to an extent. One can think of all the possibilities but never come to a conclusion whether what would happen in the post-movie timeline. Moreover, the stance of Terrence Fletcher remains quite unclear in the end whether he actually wanted to take revenge or only wanted to take Andrew beyond the limits of his talent and thus realizing his dream of becoming a drumming legend.
What Others Say About the Movie
The movie is considered to be one of the best movies of the year 2014 and achieved a rating of 8.5, 94%, 88 on iMDb, Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic respectively. The movie won five Oscars in the 87th Annual Academy Awards which include J.K Simmons for Best Supporting Actor; Tom Cross for Best Film Editing and three awards for Best Sound Mixing. The movie was also received the Top Audience and Grand Jury award at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.
According to Anthony Lane of The New Yorker:
“What lends verve to Damien Chazelle’s film is not so much the lure of jazz as the power struggle between master and pupil, plus a rare honesty about the costs of the craze for excellence.”
I feel that the movie basically has two types of audience with separate interpretation of the movie. One believes that at the end, Andrew had achieved his goal of being a great drummer and had started on the path to greatness. The other part contradicts the first one and believes that Andrew would never be a drumming great because he would constantly be under trauma inflicted by Terrence. Moreover, as the movie dialogues suggests, he would “die drunk and broke at the age of 34”. I believe that the difference of opinion on the matter is the actual beauty of it as it makes the audience care about the character and what happens to him. I’m of an opinion that the movie is perfect the way it is and even a change of a single scene would sour the taste of it.
All in all this is one of the best movies I’ve ever come across and has a special place in my top 3 favorites of all time along with V for Vendetta and Fightclub. The movie is a must watch for anyone who’s got a skill and is goal oriented. The acting level in the movie is really professional and is worthy of all the accolades it receives. I would definitely suggest anyone who reads this review to watch it. Give it a hundred minutes of your life and it will definitely be worth your while.
Contributed by: Ahsan Ali Abbasi, FAST Isb.