Having worked my way through a fair few of the Oscar Nominated films I have no hesitation in declaring Whiplash my favorite so far.
It’s a film that is resolutely unfashionable in a number of regards but for that very reason seems vital and exactly what we need right now.
The protagonist Andrew, played brilliantly by Miles Teller of ‘The Spectacular Now ‘fame wants to make it as a Jazz drummer. In fact he wants to make it so much he eschews friends and a sex life in order to excel at his chosen medium.
To succeed however he needs more than determination, he needs the help of the music school’s most fearsome and sadistic instructor Terence Fletcher played with vicious, sinewy glee by JK Simmons
Fletcher breaks his students down bit by bit pointing out their inadequacies in a series of un PC put downs.
Usually with such a set up the conclusion must be that the pupil must reject his bullying mentor and understand the importance of what is ‘real’ in life – relationships, friendship, a decent average existence.
Not so in Whiplash. The increasingly manic and obsessive Andrew pushes himself to the extreme: his hands spurting blood as he pushes himself through the pain barrier to become the 21st century’s Buddy Rich.
The inevitable associations with the stigmata of Christ are there for all to see and it is a kind of divinity that Andrew is hoping for, the chance to become immortal and beloved like Bird and the other jazz greats.
The lesson of the film is simple we may on the outside despise the methods of the torturous bully Fletcher but we need him too. Because without someone pushing us through what is human we can never find the supernatural talent within ourselves that make our lives extraordinary.