The movie Whiplash has stuck with me since I saw it a few weeks ago. I see lots of movies and most zip in and out of my brain. I’m going to blog about why I think Whiplash found a few memory cells. Bear with me. There’s a connection to writing.
If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s about a brutally demanding teacher at an elite New York music academy driving a willingly submissive drumming student to greatness. The relationship is wildly at odds with current expectations around appropriate teacher-student relations, but it’s gripping as hell.
So, why? Some of the credit goes to the acting. J.K. Simmons nails the part of Terence Fletcher, the music teacher, who tests the boundaries of abuse in his obsession to push artists beyond mediocrity. And Miles Teller is impressive as Andrew Neyman, the student driven to be the best, even at the cost of his teacher’s savage mind games as well as family relationships and a love interest.
Mostly, though, it’s the story. This is intense mano a mano, testosterone-filled stuff that just pulls back from being too crazy to believe. Though set in the arts’ world, it reminded me of NCAA football coaches screaming at players and slapping their helmets to induce their best performance. Son, if you wanna be picked in the draft, you’ll take my medicine. Yes, sir! It’s my ticket to realizing my forever dream of going first overall.
For me, the connection between Whiplash and writing fiction is that the story has the key elements of a well-crafted psychological thriller. Great pacing, gripping conflict and intriguing characters. A neat resolution that fits the characters’ psychology, yet leaves enough ambivalence to keep one thinking after. And scenes in which characters spar with nuance to reveal themselves.
In other words, the elements I strive for in my books.
Copyright © 2015 Peter Fritze
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