Friday, November 21, 2014

Whiplash: Into the Mind of the Musician

One of the most stressful and competitive environments in the world is that of music performance.  Though many films portray a glorified version of what it is like to be a performer, Whiplash, directed by Damien Chazelle managed to honestly capture the world and mindset of student musicians.  Granted I have never attended a music conservatory, the music program in my high school was very competitive and we would often compete against other schools.  These competitions were similar to the ones shown in Whiplash.

The moment we step into the jazz rehearsal room with the protagonist, the editing becomes quick and choppy.  There are many quick cuts to players wetting their reeds, emptying spit valves, tuning drums, and doing short riffs to warm up.  In a rehearsal setting, there is a feeling of urgency that this editing helps to convey.  The players prepare themselves quickly and efficiently, so that they can be ready to play at their highest level when the conductor steps in front of the group.  A hectic series of quick cuts also helps to display Andrew’s state of mind.  Entering a top notch jazz band as the youngest player is a very stressful and chaotic situation.  From these cuts the audience can sympathize with the stress and pressure that Andrew is feeling.

Another moment in this movie that emphasized the mind of the musician occurred as the band practiced.  When the band is getting ready to begin playing, the conductor, Fletcher is in focus.  As soon as he moves his hand up, signaling the musicians to bring their instruments up, there is a rack focus to Fletcher’s hand.  This particular moment mimics exactly how musicians think.  When the conductor’s hand goes up to start a piece, every musician is focused intently on that hand, waiting to see when it will give the pickup or down beat.  By utilizing this rack focus, Chazelle allows the audience to take the place of the musicians and anticipate the beginning of a song.   The director literally shows us where the musicians’ attention is by using this rack focus.
Chazelle does a wonderful job of portraying not only the competitiveness of the music field, but also the mind of the musician.

No comments: