- 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.
- Having achieved an enviable career few could even dream of, renowned conductor/composer Lydia Tár, the first female principal music director of the Berlin Philharmonic, is at the top of her game. As a conductor, Lydia not only orchestrates, she manipulates. As a trailblazer, the passionate virtuoso leads the way in the male-dominated classical music industry. Moreover, Lydia prepares for the release of her memoir while juggling work and family. She is also willing to take up one of her most significant challenges: a live recording of Gustav Mahler‘s Symphony No. 5. However, forces that even the imperious maestro can’t control slowly chip away at Lydia’s elaborate facade, revealing the genius’s dirty secrets and the insidious, corrosive nature of power. What if life knocks Lydia off her pedestal?
Women at the height of their powers and prestige can fall and be corrupted just as easily as men. That is the premise of Tar, a film directed by Todd Field and starring Cate Blanchett, as a woman who is the conductor of the most prestigious orchestra in the world, the Berlin Philharmonic.
Lydia Tar is a genius filled with the usual nervous tics, high flown taste, steely nerves that characterized her other famous male counterparts. Blanchett brings her lithe physicality and her quick and cutting intelligence to a woman who according to her motto for conducting finds her art and genius in the discovery process of rehearsal. It’s an interesting, if somewhat overly drawn out, deep dive into an unraveling psyche— that explores the cliché thin line between madness and genius.
Tar goes about her day displaying her cool façade, a mixture of perfectionism and contempt for complacency. It’s the non-musical night sounds that gets incorporated into her music and psyche that will cause her unraveling- the humming refrigerator, door chimes, ringtones and metronome tics.
Todd Field revels in displaying his classical music bonafides. He name drops famous conductors left and right. Tar is a Bernstein protégée. The New Yorker’s cultural critic, Adam Gopnik, even shows up in the first scenes to conduct a Tar interview, that provides all the necessary bio, backstory and character development and traits.
Tar has reached the mountaintop and can only descend back down or fall off. In true musical form, her descent is properly operatic- a series of indiscretions that catches up with her, particularly one that had a tragic outcome beyond Lydia Tar’s control.
Field drills the musicality into the film. The dialogue has a sinuous rhythms and beats. Transitional soundtrack sounds focus on the mechanical notes of city life.
Tar is all about the rehearsal, the process, the jealousies and betrayals, the compromises necessary and the ruthlessness needed to get it perfect. The big musical pice is never heard in its entirety. It can never be. Tar is a movie where only the small somber notes matter.
Along the way workplace behavior and cancel culture get skewered. When Tar is confronted with her own infractions the playful argumentation becomes increasingly serious and grim. It becomes clear that what we think is happening- a career brought to ruin by bad behavior- is something else entirely.
Tar gets a 3.5 out of 5 or a B+.
Directed by Todd Field
Written by Todd FieldProduced by
- Todd Field
- Alexandra Milchan
- Scott Lambert
Cinematography Florian Hoffmeister
- Standard Film Company
- EMJAG Productions
- September 1, 2022(Venice)
- October 7, 2022(United States)
- February 23, 2023(Germany)
Running time158 minutesCountries
- United States
Budget $35 million