Listen, we need to talk about this film. I need to talk about this film. I loved “TÁR”, I can’t stop thinking about it and I cannot wait to see it again. Yes, all two and a half hours of it. First of all, let me readjust some expectations in case you saw the trailers and you’re under the impression that this is some ambiguous, psychological thriller with a heavy dose of surrealism. No! Forget about that. This is an exquisitely-written drama. There are a couple of thriller-esque scenes, there are a couple of brief moments of surrealism that are
very clearly dreams. But when it comes to the plot, this movie is nowhere near as ambiguous as you might think based on the marketing. Here’s the premise: Lydia Tár is a world-renowned conductor and composer at the top of her game, and there seems to be no limit to what she’s able to achieve. She’s smart, talented, passionate about music, and she is ready to take her career to new heights. But of course, this is when the trouble begins and some of Lydia’s questionable actions start catching up to her. In a way, “TÁR” is a portrait of
a heroine unravelling, except in this case the heroine is very much an anti-heroine. Taking the entire story into account, it’s easy to see that Lydia’s character is a role in
when it comes to relationships – all aspects of it, and it is fascinating! It’s no coincidence that “TÁR” uses the world of classical music as its framework – it’s a world rooted in tradition, one that doesn’t exist without composers and techniques that are centuries old, a world that can often feel like it’s frozen in time, operating by the rules of a different century. And an orchestra in particular has a very specific hierarchy, which serves as the perfect setup for all of the discussions the film aims to ignite. At one point, Lydia herself tells her daughter
that the orchestra is not a democracy. Through its lead character (and yes, despite how real she feels, Lydia Tár is a fictional character), the movie challenges its viewers to engage in nuanced conversations about very charged, relevant topics such as identity politics, power dynamics, cancel culture, separating the art from the artist, and the idea of achieving greatness in the modern world. But here’s the beautiful thing about all of this: Todd Field has no interest in easy answers. The film doesn’t pass judgement on its lead character or anyone she interacts with. It doesn’t take a stance, it
doesn’t preach, moralize, or lecture its audience. It’s not anti-this or pro-that as far as those charged topics go – the only thing it’s “pro” is pro-conversation. “TÁR” is a movie that trusts the intelligence of its viewers, that demands attention to detail and wants to start a discussion rather than tell you what to think or how to feel, which is something that has become increasingly rare in modern cinema. Listen, I’m not going to lie: the film is speaking my language. I was a classical music major myself, and between that and my love for character studies, complex
characters, and movies that generally don’t beat you over the head with their point of view – “TÁR” pretty much feels like it was made for me. But it’s also objectively a brilliant and engrossing film that often feels like a Greek tragedy. The stunning writing (which by the way is not without some well-placed, dry humor) and direction of Todd Field, the excellent cast, the precise cinematography and editing, the eerie score, the production design – all of these elements come together to make “TÁR” one of the best and most thought-provoking films of the year. And then there
is, of course, our Queen Cate Blanchett who absolutely delivers a career-best performance, with an astonishing level of character depth and control. As Lydia, she is someone who is constantly aware of the effect she has, aware of her every move, every word because all of this has intent behind it. Lydia is someone who did not come from an elite musical background – she had to dream big and work her way up, and because of this she always knows where she’s headed and what she needs to do to get there… Until things start spinning out of her
control. Blanchett is simply magnificent, her talent is undeniable, so give this woman her third Oscar, please. In some ways, Lydia simultaneously reminded me of Andrew and Terence Fletcher from “Whiplash”, which happens to be one of my favorite films. We see the cost of ambition in Tár just like we see it in Andrew. Lydia is a character driven by that ambition, someone who discovered the meaning in life through music. But while “Whiplash” explores the price of greatness from the perspective of someone aspiring to be great, “TÁR” examines what greatness does to someone who has achieved it.
Lydia is closest to Fletcher when she is teaching a masterclass at Juilliard and engages in an argument with a student who expresses a controversial point of view. What’s interesting is that she preaches letting go of the ego in service of the music, but ultimately lets her ego get the best of her. Most of what you need to know about Lydia and the way she perceives herself is actually revealed in the opening interview we see in the film, as she talks about her ability to stop and start time while leading an orchestra. So perhaps, I was
wrong to call her queen. Goddess is more like it. “You cannot start without me. See, I start the clock. Sometimes, my second hand stops… Which means the time stops.” I’ve seen “TÁR” referred to as the “cancel culture movie”, and while, yes, “cancel culture” is part of it, it’s also just one element of this layered film, and describing it as such is a major oversimplification of its intent. What is the intent? To look at things with complexity and to remember our ability to, at least, attempt to see different points of view. The ambiguity the trailers have
tried to get across doesn’t come from the plot itself – it comes from your interpretation of what you see unfold on screen. How do you view these characters? How do you feel about the ending? What is your relationship with power and ambition? How do you judge people you’ve never met? How do you reconcile greatness and fallibility? “TÁR” asks many questions, and none of them are simple “yes or no”, “black or white” issues. It’s a film defined by its complexity, whether it comes to characters, relationships, or ethics. A film that looks at power dynamics through the
lens of the accelerating and ever-changing modern world, and sometimes quite literally through the lens of a phone. I really hope this film finds its audience and people actually go see it because at the end of the day “TÁR” is a lot more accessible, relevant, and engaging than it initially seems, without being preachy. Todd Field challenges his viewers to figure out where they stand themselves and consider that different points of view don’t have to be mutually exclusive. With “TÁR” the question isn’t just examining power itself, but also examining the way we look at it and where
that perspective comes from. In the end, what Todd Field achieves here is masterful! His characters feel so layered and real that you may actually end up googling if they really are fictional. His visual and storytelling choices are exceptional. His passion and talent are obvious, and the discussion “TÁR” is able to generate is fascinating. How many movies, especially recently, have tried to tackle questions of power dynamics? Of structure and politics of power? Of “cancel culture” and separating the art from the artist? So many. But very few of them are able to approach these discussions with the
amount of intelligence and nuance they require, and “TÁR” is at the top of that list.