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Already considered one of the best films of the year, ‘Tár’ has already won a Golden Globe and been nominated in six categories at the Academy Awards. Cate Blanchett plays Lydia Tár, an internationally recognized conductor and first female principal music director of the Berlin Philharmonic. Noémie Merlant, a French actress also known for ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’ joins Blanchett, and Nina Hoss a German actress known for ‘Phoenix.’
An alluring film that asks more questions than it answers.Power, influence, and lust surrounds the character of Lydia Tár. Showing the pyramid of the way in which power structures work, the film never feels the need to spell things out as Cate Blanchett dictates the grounds of this narrative.
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Todd Field’s Return to Cinema
This will be Todd’s first film back on the big screen after sixteen years. He initially received critical acclaim through his first two films ‘In the Bedroom’ and ‘Little Children’ in the early 2000’s. Despite it seeming like Field has been away from the industry for nearly two decades, it is actually not the entire picture.
The reasons for his inactivity mainly come down to the slow pace of the industry. Field found it hard to get funding for his projects, often taking years before the project would go away. During this same time, he was also to have a series on ShowTime with Daniel Craig but the efforts proved too ambitious for the network at the time.
When the time finally came, Focus Features didn’t have much to oppose in what the project was about. Executives allowed Field the freedom to come up with anything he wanted to make as long as it stayed under a certain budget. What came out was the ninety two page script of ‘Tár’ that he had written with Cate Blanchett in mind.
Much like his other films, ‘Tár’ exhibits the same intricacies as his previous films. Focused with a deep character study, Field uses elegant dialogue to bring characters to life. With help from themes of human desire, he shows how pleasure and obsession play into success. As a brilliant writer above all, Field inserts metaphors and undertones through his work that adds layers of social commentary.
Field’s flawless script moves with the precise pace needed to lay the groundwork for a complex character like Lydia Tár. He is able to build scenes perfectly that slowly builds up tension. An example of this are two impressive long takes that open the film. Supplied with Blanchett’s wondrous monologues, Field can show the foundations of what makes Tár tick and what makes her pleased.
Cate Blanchett’s Magnificent Embodiment of Lydia Tár
Over decades of work, Cate Blanchett has proved to be one of the most versatile actresses. From blockbusters to independent films she always is able to step up to the task asked of her. ‘Tár’ is yet another film that showcases her talent, elevating the piece to another degree.
In preparation for the film, Blanchett relearned how to play the piano as well as speak German and how to conduct an orchestra. The scenes of the orchestra playing are actually Blanchett conducting the Dresden Orchestra! Scenes with the orchestra not only are impressive because of the musical prowess but also by the way Blanchett embodies a conductor, using her entire body to feel every beat that plays.
A slightly cavalier composer, Lydia Tár has practically done everything/anything under the sun. The character is controlling and manipulative, tormenting and prodding at the relationships around her, both in a professional and personal stance. Innocuous in how she operates, her intelligence gets her the admiration and applause she needs but her biased decisions could be the very thing eating at her creativity.
As the character’s mental instability of lying and deflecting becomes too much for Tár to bear, the essence of the downfall of someone with power and prowess can be seen. Lydia Tár represents a trailblazer who has been able to achieve nearly everything that has been thrown her way. These habits presented by Blanchett expound on the corruption and the tracking of getting there.
Music of ‘Tár’
An inseparable aspect to the narrative breathes with the music surrounding it. Crafted by Hildur Guðnadóttir, composer of ‘Joker’, the music is an exploration itself throughout the film. The music in Tár first is in a mono sound mix and gradually adds more tracks as the film goes on.
Throughout the entirety of the film, the sound of all the instruments was recorded live on set. It was as diegetic as it can get. Actual musicians are used for all of the scenes where they are playing. This includes Olga played by Sophie Kauer, a cellist making her acting debut.
Guðnadóttir’s score sits behind most of the subtle moments. The main music heard takes place during rehearsals. The other non-diegetic music helps to add layers of mystery under Tár’s surface. The uncomfortable music is synonymous with the uncomfortable topics at hand.
The film presents greater meaning than what lies on the surface. ‘Tar’ touches upon taboo subjects that often do not get the spotlight in mainstream Cinema. It feels as if Todd Field had something to say about the current state of the world and used Lydia Tár to demonstrate where most of the problems start.
The plot feels familiar to the situations that are going on currently in the atmosphere of not just the film industry but in every industry. The character of Tár could have been a marketing executive or a CEO, the job had nothing to do with the character other than the position of power they are in and the systemic issues that are at hand.
The uncomfortable topics are what brings most of the mystery and intrigue to the story. Themes relevant to cancel culture, the #MeToo Movement, and systemic power structures are integral to who the character Lydia Tár is. ‘Tár’ represents these huge issues in a meditative and profound way that by the end will leave audiences wanting to have conversations and to talk about what they experienced. After all, isn’t that the best thing a film can leave us with?
Todd Field has a few projects in development including ‘The Creed of Violence’ and ‘As It Happens.’ Cate Blanchett’s next film will be ‘Borderlands’ directed by Eli Roth and Tim Miller starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Hart. Noémie Merlant will be in the upcoming film ‘Soul Mates’ directed by André Téchiné with Benjamin Voisin.
Producers: Todd Field, Scott Lambert, and Alexandra Milchan
Writer: Todd Field
Director: Todd Field
Editor: Monika Willi
Music: Hildur Guðnadóttir
Cinematographer: Florian Hoffmeister
Mentioned Cast: Cate Blanchett, Noémie Merlant, Nina Hoss, Sophie Kauer
By Devon James
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Devon James is a screen and media writer determined to provide readers with engaging and informative content. His film industry background gives him an adept knowledge in the entertainment industry. This complies with The Hollywood Insider’s mission to educate readers. Devon likes seeing hidden voices in film that provide new cultural perspectives. He enjoys the conversations cinema creates; hoping through his writing to open up topics for discussion.