When a bunch of promising new musical talents of the esteemed Shaffer Conservatory is chosen to play in the cut-throat studio band, their spirits are put to the test by their tyrannical instructor, Terrance Fletcher, barking at them at the slightest slip-up. A particularly ambitious drummer, Andrew Neiman, dreams of becoming the next Charlie Parker and yet cannot gain the approval of his own music teacher. Completely detaching himself from society, he practices all day through blood, sweat and tears – literally – to achieve true greatness.
Whiplash is inspired by director Damien Chazelle’s own experience of playing in his high school jazz band. He was an aspiring drummer, much like the lead character. Akin to Andrew, he too had to bear with an intense instructor – who, most likely, was the reason for Chazelle’s realisation that he wasn’t a musical genius after all.
In Fletcher’s words, “there are no two words in the English language more harmful than ‘good job’.” But the finesse of this film compels us to use those very words to describe it. The editing of the film feels as though it has been set to a steady metronome. The cinematography strikes a major chord with the viewers successfully overthrowing the risk of looking monotonous with repeated shots of drums and classrooms. J K Simmons portrayed the demonic Fletcher in an Oscar-winning performance, while Miles Teller (Andrew) depicted the excruciating hard work all starry-eyed young adults must go through in order to become an all-time great in their pertinent crafts.
How the movie came into being is quite a story in itself. The script made the prestigious “Black List” (the most “liked” unreleased films) in 2012. This inspired Chazelle to make an 18 minute short film in the hopes of attracting producers to materialise it in feature length. The film was well received at the Sundance Film Festival and the rest is history. On top of its stupendous critical acclaim, the movie scooped up over $13 million in the US box office alone with only $3.3 million in production cost, which is very economical even in the realm of independent films. However, the most momentous accomplishment of the film is perhaps its capacity to inspire young artists who are at the brink of bowing out for the wrong reasons.