Music Drama 'Whiplash' Takes Its Tension Cues from Horror Films

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Writer/director Damien Chazelle's film, Whiplash, is ostensibly about the pressures at a prestigious music conservatory, but Chazelle took inspiration from an unusual genre.

"I was a drummer in a jazz orchestra with a tough teacher, and the whole climate was so charged. As soon as you walked into the room, you could hear a pin drop… You feel your heart pounding in your chest. So those kinds of emotions were what I wanted to capture," Chazelle tells Film Journal International. "Usually, the movies that seek to capture those emotions are thriller or horror movies, or what have you, movies where the stakes are life and death. Here, the challenge was to create that same kind of level of tension and fear, but, with less obvious stakes, in the sense that at the end of the day it’s people playing music. A bomb is not going to explode if someone comes into a measure a hair early or plays a note off-key.”

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