Whiplash is an excellent production with a thematic background that, if it is watched with a critical eye, can lead to an interesting debate and reflection, and probably some controversy. The story revolves around a young musician, Andrew, who studies at a prestigious music academy where he aspires to develop his potential. His great talent with the drums soon catches the attention of Fletcher, one of the most prominent teachers of the academy, who will quickly incorporate him into his group to monitor his learning.
It could pass for just another movie that illustrates the mentor-student relationship; however, in pursuit of excellence and the desire to get the best from his students, Fletcher will be presented to us as a teacher whose teaching methods are highly questionable, pushing the students to the limit and, often, subjecting them to a unhealthy pressure in order to get what he assumes is the best of them. In fact, one of the central considerations that the film proposes is try to define the limits within which a person may demand of another in order to achieve a goal.
The question is interesting because, as in studies, sports, and professional life, in spiritual life a person often needs a mentor or a more experienced person to lead them. How often, without this help, we would be satisfied –without even knowing, laziness or any other reason– with much less of what we really could take.
It is clear that in the movie, Fletcher goes to unhealthy limits that are neither praiseworthy nor laudable. It is also clear, on the other hand, that we live in a society that cares a lot for appearances and what is politically correct, in which most of the legitimate demands that we could ask to others –or others could ask to us– are set aside because of the fear of hurt feelings or for a false human respect.
In this regard, and beyond what the movie presents to us, how many times have we needed someone to demand a little more to beat the limits that we had placed on ourselves unnecessarily in life and friendships. At the same time, you can never demand from another more than what they are capable to give, and knowing those limits isn’t easy.
Another aspect in the movie to think about is Andrew’s attitude. He has a clear goal and it is to succeed in his musical career. In that journey to “success”, the movie shows that he is willing to do whatever sacrifices it takes. Throughout the story, Andrew, in his climb to triumph, not only will put his life in danger, but will also become unable to establish serious relationships with others because every commitment could become an obstacle to achieve his goals. His desire to leave a “footprint” on the world can be legitimate at first, but at the same time, that horizon becomes ingrained against deeper and essential necessities than just temporal success at any level.
Having achieved the proposed goal, as it shows the movie at the end, is not synonymous with having achieved an authentic realization as person, which is, after all, what we should look for in first place. Ultimately, all the effort for a corruptible crown no longer makes sense if in the journey we forget who we are, which is what clearly happened to Andrew and Fletcher.