Tár is a film about a lot of things. A portrait of a lesbian, fighting for power in an industry historically dominated by men. A moment of tension, strung between moving forward and backward not unlike the bows of many stringed instruments Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett) conducts. A spiral downward as Tár becomes victim to her own play for power. But above all else, Tár is a beautifully crafted film that examines the Icarus-like nature of the modern cross-section between art and technology, how a play for power becomes the burning wax beneath feathers. Tár is a woman on the verge of collapse.
Director: Todd Field
Release Date: October 7, 2022 (Theatrical)
I saw Tár opening night in NYC. Once again, I dragged my roommate and her boyfriend with me, unsure if this was the type of film they would regret agreeing to see with me. After the credits rolled and we left the theater, we ruminated on the lengthy film we just witnessed. Talk of time, of her rise and fall in both Tár’s private and public worlds, how music and film are the perfect mediums for telling time. Also, how good Blanchett’s German accent was.
Tár takes place mostly in Berlin, at the Berlin Philharmonic, where Lydia is one of the first women conductors on such a large stage. She travels back and forth to NYC often, teaching classes and giving talks. She runs an extremely tight ship, hardly even relying on her assistant, Francesca (Noémie Merlant), and wife, Sharon (Nina Hoss), for support. It’s no wonder that when things begin to unravel for Lydia they unravel quickly, leaving her with almost no chance of rectifying the situation.
Tár features multiple conflicts within Lydia’s life. After all, she’s done a lot of things to rise and maintain her power as one of the first (and only) women conductors to reach her level of acclaim. From going behind people’s backs to remove them from her orchestra to manipulating a former student into suicide, Tár is not always a “good” person. But Tár‘s portrayal of a woman unhinged asks audiences to re-evaluate the idea of power.
Who holds the power in our society? Who decides when someone is important enough to lead others, and when their time is up? For the most part, Western society has been directed by white, straight men. Lydia Tár, a lesbian, is held against the standards of men. Of course, she’ll fail, but that won’t stop her from trying.
With a run-time of 2 hours and 40 minutes, Tár is quite a commitment. For the most part, I didn’t even notice how long it was. Cate Blanchett commands the screen and camera, inviting you into Lydia Tár’s tightly controlled world. Just when you begin to sympathize with her, Tár’s world crumbles. The nuance of Field’s direction showed just how catastrophic her descent was. Within days she loses her assistant, wife, daughter, and career. It’s a blow most people wouldn’t recover from.
In a moment I didn’t expect, Lydia returns to her family home in a rural town in America. We see her childhood room packed with trophies and musical gadgets. We learn that her real name is “Linda” and not Lydia. But who was Linda? What did she lose to become Lydia? Without explicitly saying anything, Blanchett and Fields paint a portrait of a woman reinvented to succeed in a brutal world. We can see why she’s said and done the things she has, all in the name of “making it” in a world that has torn down women for centuries.
Although Lydia Tár is not a real person, it’s easy to imagine her existing in real life. She could be any “girl boss” or “bitch,” any woman who resisted the patriarchy only to crumble underneath the pressure of one’s own power and ego. But she’s not a man. She can start and stop the clock, but she can’t punch a hole through history and time.
Tár is a powerful film about cancel culture and the question of power, without feeling preachy. I think it works because it is so multifaceted, portraying Lydia as a talented woman whose ego and way of life have grown out of control no matter how she tries to direct it. Behind any woman whose power grew too great too quickly is Tár. A woman who’s lost control, but did she ever truly have it?