A drummer himself, music lover Damien Chazelle took his inspiration from his former experience in a jazz band to produce “Whiplash” with a masterful hand.
whiplash: the rhythm of a drummer filmmaker
Damien Chazelle is a musician – a former drummer – at heart. Accompanied by his faithful composer Justin Hurwitz, the American director gives a fundamental place to music at the heart of his cinema. The jazzy tunes danced and sung by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in the musical La La Land as shown by. Just like the lunar odyssey of First Man: The First Man on the Moon whose soundtrack by Justin Hurwitz – again – fully accompanies astronaut Neil Armstrong.
Before these two feature films, Damien Chazelle opens a door to his past with whiplash. Released in 2014, the film tells the story of Andrew, a drummer, and his daily life punctuated by jazz.
Played by Miles Teller, the young musician became the drummer of his school’s Studio Band. Facing him, a terrible teacher (JK Simmons) embodies harshness and musical pressure. Seeking the excellence advocated by his conductor, Andrew works hard until exhaustion on the drumheads. Bodies sweat, hands bleed, and the heat of the orchestral rehearsal room becomes stifling.
The conductor’s fear
In this film, the filmmaker questions the demands of art and the teacher/student relationship. Is this suffering in art, undergone by this student, an absolute necessity? Damien Chazelle goes back to his student days and draws on his memory, which becomes a source of inspiration for whiplash. In high school, he was part of a competitive jazz band. He has lasting memories of it, as he confides in an interview for AVClub :
It was a very competitive jazz band that was inspired by professional bands. And I remember being terrified. That was my general emotion during those years. Just fear. And not being able to eat before rehearsals, losing sleep and sweating.
Then an apprentice drummer at that time, the future filmmaker punctuated his daily life with drumsticks. His conductor arouses in him a mixture of admiration and fear :
All I was afraid of as a drummer was the bandleader. It was his face. It was whether or not he approved of my acting. And if he approved, it didn’t matter if no one did, I was on my little cloud. And if he disagreed, it didn’t matter if the audience got up from their seats and people came up to me and said, ‘That was a great solo. I felt like shit.
JK Simmons terrifies the jazz band
To embody this authoritarian figure, Damien Chazelle pushes the features of his character beyond his reality :
It’s taken from my teacher, but I certainly took it further. There’s a bit of Buddy Rich in him, and how he treated his musicians, and a bit of other famous tyrannical figures of jazz band leaders who threw things at their musicians, punched them, yelled at them.
The director gives full responsibility to JK Simmons to become Terence Fletcher, this man who goes beyond morality. For his performance, the actor won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 2015.
At the time of drawing his professional career, the director plans to pursue music. But his passion for cinema led him to Harvard where he learned the workings of the seventh art. In 2023, he will continue his filmography with Babylon. In the casting, Margot Robbie and Brad Pitt will play the main roles.