I watched Whiplash today, with my brother. We try to get together and watch a new movie each month. The house has an exceptional set up, massive flatscreen, surround sound, just beautiful. So last time we watched Birdman, which just blew me away, and he said he had the next one picked too and that was Whiplash. He also requested that I remain Tabula Rosa about the movie, which I did. I discovered that is great way to watch, or consume anything, enter a bank slate and go along for the ride.
Like many movies, Birdman too in fact, Whiplash felt ripped from my own soul. Not saying I have lived a life exactly like the character, but I have had experiences that made me feel like the protagonist. Feelings and experiences that come from working and wanting something so bad, and it being so difficult that you may never reach the goal you have in mind. I have also experienced how that affects how relatable you are to others and in fact defines how you see others. Practicing any skill requires a lot of patience and focus, and that often leads to some sort of isolation, that is until performance of course, and then you are slammed in there among other savages like yourself, who are also just holding on for dear life themselves.
Whiplash was a perfect demonstration of what I like to call the inner Warrior Voice, which all artists must have in their heads to be great. Both movies Whiplash and Birdman, have this alpha force which taunts and instructs the protagonist. In Birdman, it is the Michael Keaton’s costumed alter ego, and in Whiplash it is the Conductor Fletcher, played awesomely by J.K. Simmons. I think this figure both externally and internally is something more than just the Ego run amok. The Ego seems bureaucratic. It cares about appearances and approval. It wants to make sure everything is under control, it can’t inform or add on to what actually is. The ego is noncreative, maybe, don’t want to get to insulting here or anything.
The Warrior Voice is not like the Ego Voice. It cares about the content. Oh does it care about the content. It wants to fucking feel something. As you can tell it likes to swear, and doesn’t care who is listening. Actually, it wants you to listen, because it has something to say…
Unlike the ego, the Warrior voice, does care about others, because it knows others are better than it, and it wants to be better than them. Not for personal glorification, but for glorification of the battle/art, which is what the Warrior is really chasing, the great artifact of itself. It does this shit because it likes it. It wants it now, no fuck that, it wants it yesterday! Sorry, whoa, I’ll settle down…
This makes me think of Tarantino’s great movie True Romance. In that we find another example of the Warrior Voice as a character in Elvis, played by Val Kilmer, alter ego of our protagonist Christian Slater. Again the theme in that movie, becomes that when your back is against the wall, like in combat or staring at a blank canvas, there is a little tough voice in there, that sort of starts talking shit, telling you to pick that brush up and try coward, try to make something relevant, something meaningful, and when you get sick of the taunting then you end up strapping yourself in and going for it. There’s something great and real in that.
I got one more example of this for me, the great cult classic Big Trouble In Little China. Here I think the whole protagonist of that movie, epically named Jack Burton and played by the Kurt Russell, is the manifestation of the Warrior Voice.
Burton is fearless, over the top, heroic. He doesn’t stop. He just moves forward. The Warrior Voice is funny and sharp too; it reads people and situations well. We, the audience, admire the strength of the manifested Warrior Voice. In all the examples listed here, there is something so sort of like, dare I say Fatherly, or comforting, in the Warrior Voice too. It wants to protect us. It wants to help us achieve our dreams.
This is shown so beautifully in Whiplash. I dare not spoil for you. Its enough to call it tough love, with the emphasis on tough. In the sort of bubbled wrapped world we seem to be creating for ourselves the hard order of Fathers seems archaic and maybe even tyrannical. This is both dangerous and sort of sad, I think.
I know as a child (and currently now that I think about it) I always sort of compared myself to and imagined myself as the heroes I saw in movies. It would inspire play and reenactments and inspire my own original story telling. Every movie would seem to encourage a different passion. Watch Rocky, do push ups and play box. Watch Searching For Bobby Fischer and learn chess. Watch the Dead Poets Society and want to read more. Watch The Godfather and want to…Anyways, yes I am a firm believer in the power of Film and Art to transform ourselves and therefore the world around us. Movies like Whiplash, when watched critically, become less about entertainment, though it is quite entertaining, and more about personal development, at least my Warrior Voice says so.