As writer-director Damien Chazelle's taut music drama "Whiplash" explores the complex relationship between a promising young jazz drummer (Miles Teller) and his overbearing teacher (J.K. Simmons), it implicitly asks whether the ends justify the means in pursuit of greatness.
During a recent presentation of the film for the Envelope Screening Series, Chazelle talked about the brutal teaching methods employed by Simmons' character, Fletcher, and how he views the world.
"Fletcher has this viewpoint that, sure, maybe 90 out of 100, nine out of every 10 kids he teaches are going to be completely discouraged and destroyed by his methods, and in that sense his methods will not work on them," Chazelle said. "But if there's just one, whether it's out of 10 or out of 100, who responds in some way effectively to those teaching methods — in this case that would be Andrew [Teller] — in Fletcher's mind that justifies the whole thing. … He's blind to the casualties on the road."
The 29-year-old filmmaker added that he was more interested in raising questions than answering them. "Even if there is that one out of 10 or one out of 100 'success story,' quote-unquote, from those methods, does that then morally justify the methods?" he asked. "In a way, I guess I have my own answer — morally, I don't think it does — but I wanted to look at the isolated result of it and try to pose the question in very stark terms."
For more from Chazelle and Simmons, watch the clip above, and check out the Envelope Screening Series page.