starring: cate blanchett, nina hoss, noemie merlant and sophie kauer
REVIEWER: nick tonkin
Set in the international world of Western classical music, the film centers on Lydia Tár, widely considered one of the greatest living composer-conductors and the very first female director of a major German orchestra.
Tár was written, directed and produced by Todd Field in his first feature film since 2006’s Little Children and it is a towering work featuring a striking lead performance from Cate Blanchett as the title character, Lydia Tár; a highly accomplished and world renowned composer-conductor.
Tár is a psychological drama, a character study of Blanchett’s Lydia, a person who revels in the outside world’s recognition and acceptance of her brilliance. The film explores the subtle ways she excerpts power from her vaunted position over those beholden to or dependent on her and how this slowly leads towards disintegration.
Cate Blanchett is thoroughly impressive as Lydia Tár, she disappears into the character, but breathes such life into Lydia: for instance through little moments of ritual when she is alone in a safe space or the tics she exhibits when alone before a performance or a moment of importance.
Blanchett’s Lydia is a complex individual, and the film doesn't hide the idea that something is haunting her, though one of the powerful elements of Todd Field’s screenplay is how the audience is provided with an insight like this, but then given no direct route to an official interpretation, leaving us to our own devices with respect to our own read of Lydia Tár as a person.
The music of the film is grandiose and engrossing, as we experience Tár’s Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in its grandeur in practice and performance. The locations of the film contribute towards the film’s story too, with strong, brutalist structures and grand orchestra halls dominating the portion of the film Tár is her most powerful. Later as her world erodes into ignominy the locations become humbler, leading to a bombshell of a final scene. The contrast between the film’s open and close will live in your thoughts for some time to come.
Much has been made about the film’s incorporation of contemporary political ideologies into its story, however Field’s screenplay again, masterfully, doesn’t lead the audience to a conclusion here, nor treat outcomes as self-evident. Instead, if anything it encourages audiences to interpret Lydia’s behavior and their consequences from a humanistic point of view before any lens of modern political thought.
Tár is a powerful film featuring a striking central performance from Cate Blanchett as the world renowned composer-conductor Lydia Tár, which writer-director Todd Field examines to the fullest extent in this compelling character study.