It’s surprising to think that a movie that contains the line “I will f*ck you like a pig” is one of the most inspirational films for artists to have ever reached movie theatres, but somehow, Damien Chazelle’s movie Whiplash is. To quickly sum it up, Whiplash is about the struggles a promising drummer faces when he is pushed to extremes by a music conservatory teacher. While this movie is specifically about music and musicians, it will speak to any artist because of its underlying themes and the relationship between the two main characters.
The most important part of creating a film that will make a deep connection with the people who watch it is relatability. Most moviegoers will immediately relate to Miles Teller’s character, Andrew Neyman, a determined, ambitious, and hard-working student who practices for hours alone to be able to rise to greatness. Most moviegoers will also be able to relate to J.K Simmons’ Oscar winning character, Fletcher, an intense, verbally abusive man with a motive to follow each of his psyche-shattering insults. The connection that builds between these two perfectly captures the nature of the relationship between a good student and a challenging teacher, showing how each will end up pushing the other to dangerous extremes for the end product of greatness. Fletcher constantly throws verbal barbs at his students to see which ones are truly committed to creating good music, and adds to the overall theme of the film.
Every artist needs to be ingrained with the idea that they are the best at what they do, or that they have the potential to be one of the “greats” in order to succeed, and Whiplash shows the necessity of that idea while simultaneously adding original commentary to that theory. While narcissism is a fairly ugly personality trait, it is the necessary drive for any artist that has ever been successful, it’s the reason Pablo Picasso is so well known, it’s the reason Stanley Kubrick has created some of the most visually beautiful films ever made, it’s the reason Michael Jackson is known as the King of Pop. Whiplash definitely establishes the need of the narcissistic pledge, and also reveals another need for artists to be successful that is rarely shown in the media: encouragement. One of the most important things to an artist is failure, because it gives them an opportunity to learn, and a goal to overcome. Without failure, than can never be learning, so there can never be anything new added to the art form. While failure is important, it is also dangerous, because it may discourage the artist so badly that they decide to quit their craft altogether. Fletcher’s most important line in the film asserts this while still feeding the inherent narcissism of great artist, “No man, no, the next Charlie Parker would never be discouraged”. (Charlie Parker was a very talented saxophonist). By telling this to one of his own students that recently quit playing because of the emotional gauntlet he was put through, this re-awakened the artist’s pledge in him, making him believe that he could be the next Charlie Parker, the next great musician.
Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash is a landmark film for artists everywhere, and is definitely a film that will have many breaking down because of its relatability, while still inspiring them to dry up their tears and continue honing their craft.