WHIPLASH (2014): Who are you to make Charlie Parker never be discouraged?

The most significant victory of what cost, in the movie “Whiplash” directed by Damien Chazelle from the year 2014, presents an artistic world of rivalry, the theme of huge ambition, unreachable perfectionism and harsh reality through an amazing screenplay. This twisted drama with psychological elements dives deep into the atelophobia and social pressing in the artistic industry. The film follows first-year student Andrew Neiman (played by Miles Teller), a drummer who tries to make a name in the world. To accomplish and improve his talent he comes to the Shaffer Conservatory in New York City where one of the greatest, Terence Fletcher (Jonathan Kimble Simmons), turn to be his teacher and instructor.  A strict regime of tutorship and emotional manipulation by Flecher and the destructive dedication of Neiman collide into an active situation that could be described as a competitive track race without a finish line. This cinematic brother of “Black Swan” (directed by Darren Aronofsky and from the year 2010) provocatively attacks validation concepts, sickening determination and authoritative figures just as well as his older sister with the lead character played by Natalie Portman.

The idea of destructive success and a competitive world is told through jazz music and thrown cymbals mimicking the anecdote from the greatest American jazz icons such as saxophonist Charlie Parker called “Bird” and drummer Jo Jones. The film tempo, from Andante rapidly to Allegro, follows melodies of severe and violent movie dynamics. Editing techniques bring the atmosphere of tension, beige cinematography and game with dark studio lighting put a statement on innovative visual artistic aesthetics.  The name of the movie – “Whiplash” corresponds to a great metaphor with few meanings. In its original explanation, the word translates to an injury, a stroke caused by a quick movement, described to happen with car accidents. In newer interpretations, whiplash is in some ways mind vertigo that makes thoughts spin around your head. But in music terminology, the wording “whiplash” comes from the time of the 1960s with the genre of jazz fusion. Here it represents a way of playing instruments with the magic of improvisation. This subgenre usually in its artistry throws elements of other music genres inside classical jazz. It is interesting that the soundtrack of the movie “Whiplash” contains a combination of tracks created directly for this picture as well as some of the greatest jazz pieces that wrote the history of this musical category.

Before “Whiplash” was released in 2014, and had its breakthrough at the Sundance Film Festival, the director of the movie  Damien Chazelle, now known for his works such as “La La Land” (2016), 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016), Babylon (2022) etc., already experimented with this particular movie theme in his works. In the year 2013, Chazelle released a short film with the same name – “Whiplash” with Johnny James Simmons in the role of Andrew Neiman which shows the main idea and some of the most effective scenes that would be perfected in feature-length a year later. Chazelle’s artistic expression through the music in film, especially jazz also occurs in his debut musical film “Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench” from 2009.

Splattered hands and bloody drumstick touchingly describe obsessive dedication, lost control, pushed limits, and strengths on its last leg. The strong plot pictures the eternal spirit and at the same time breaking point, the boiling situation and the state of pulled trigger with a bullet stuck in the heavy air. Extreme Time schedules, verbal abuse, unrealistic goals and mind games of “rushing and dragging” result in drumsticks being angrily thrown in the air. The student of ambition bigger than himself in climax and resolution uncontrollably fights back expressing that the time to show his teeth has come. Lost control and vendetta put a new perspective into the mind: Was the biggest battle the battle with yourself?


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