So I finally got to see the film Whiplash. I’ve had a few friends, family, and fellow musicians mention it to me and I’ve heard so much good press that I knew it would be good and that I’d enjoy it. But what I didn’t know was WHY I’d enjoy it so much.
It’s a pretty straight forward story and its strength lies in HOW it’s told so, in light of that, I won’t spoil anything. Instead I’ll talk about WHY I enjoyed it so.
If you’ve heard about the movie, you’ve no doubt heard about the great acting, the awesome music and soundtrack, and the overall excellence of the film as a whole. What you probably haven’t heard about is the film’s accurate portrayal of the dedication it takes to be a really good musician. While Whiplash does slightly exaggerate a few things about some teachers, students, and circumstances, the film doesn’t exaggerate a thing about the countless hours, bloody hands, sore muscles, mental and emotional turmoil, and physical wear and tear that absolute dedication requires. To say that it’s similar to being a dedicated athlete is about the best comparison I can make.
A common thread among creative people is that they’re usually introverted people. Sometimes they’re odd or unusual, sometimes it’s purely an act or affectation. But more often than not, it’s a by-product of the hours upon hours of concentration and repetition and monk-like devotion to craft. Making music, or whatever the artistic discipline is, is not simply something that a person enjoys or chooses to do. Not just a means of expression. It is an obsession. It is a transformation. From who you were into who you choose to be. And who you have chosen to be is someone who specializes in creating something from nothing. Someone who seemingly pulls ideas out of the air, who writes/draws/paints/sculpts, etc. But what they won’t know, what they will never know for themselves, is the work it takes to get there.
If you know any musicians, ask them what they thought of the film. Ask them if that’s what it’s really like, the absolute, all-consuming dedication, especially when they were kids. If they’re good at what they do, they’ll tell you yes.