Drumatic: a history of drummers in film
As Whiplash picks up five Oscar nominations, Anne Billson marvels at the range of drummers on-screen over the years
By Anne Billson 8:00AM GMT 17 Jan 2015
Whiplash is about a jazz drummer who drums till his fingers bleed. His connection to the kit he pounds so obsessively is echoed by his abusive relationship with the conservatory conductor, who yells obscenities in his face like the drill sergeant from Full Metal Jacket.
You could substitute another instrument, but it wouldn’t be the same, because drums are primal, physical, brutal in a way that other instruments are not. They signal war, sex and violence, life and death – sometimes all at once. Drummers are a fundamental part of the team, yet detached, with their own special rules; the musician equivalent of goalkeepers.
In films, drummers are often depicted as obsessives, non-conformists, or psychos.