Through a beautifully scored soundtrack and a strong thematic approach, Tár narrows in on the separation of the art and the artist, leaving viewers in awe of its quiet brilliance.
The film is directed by Todd Field as a follow-up to his 2006 film Little Children. It opens on Lydia Tár, a renowned classical music conductor, on the verge of conducting nineteenth century composer Gustav Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, a piece that will solidify her position as one of the most accomplished conductors of her time. The story follows Lydia through interviews, meetings, and rehearsals chronicling her extravagant and endlessly sophisticated lifestyle. This tense character study displays an elegantly verbose woman who contains the powerful quality of captivating anyone she comes in contact with. Portrayed by Cate Blanchett, the audience watches Lydia slowly deteriorate as a result of her lifestyle and manipulative personality, showing that a perfectly tailored suit cannot protect her from her own actions.
Similar to listening to a classical piece of music, Tár holds its audience’s attention with a quiet brilliance that you have to listen carefully to fully understand. It is intricate and unknown, accompanied by hushed voices, loud instruments, and plot points slowly unraveling throughout the two hour and 38-minute run time. This film traps the audiences’ attention, requiring the viewer to simply wait for it to start and listen as closely to the notes as possible.
The true strength of this film is not the tone or the pace, it is the thematic elements that make it special. Commenting on the #MeToo movement, Tár displays a world where the titular character of the story is the perpetrator of these actions, showing the complications of sexual power, which cause the protagonist to utterly deteriorate before our eyes. Through the nervous twitches of a woman breaking down from the repercussions of her own actions, Tár masterfully attempts to hide this from the audience by making them assume that her feelings are merely because she is a hard-working, stereotypical tortured artist. Blanchett displays this pressure perfectly with what should now be defined as the best performance of her career. The concept of separating the art from the artist is the main focus of the film, even explicitly mentioning it and holding discussions in various scenes throughout the movie. These themes discussed are nuanced and morally ambiguous, especially when the story delves into the social media world of Instagram and Twitter as a necessary part of the conversation by showing text messages and tweets commenting on events happening in the film. Tár leads the audience into whiplash by making them support the intellectual woman put in front of them to suddenly be horrified watching her navigating the spaces she has put herself in.
Although this subject matter is intense and thought-provoking, Tár is not necessarily hard to watch, in fact, it is surprisingly accessible. The film is shot with incredibly beautiful sets of music halls with gorgeous classical instruments for the eye to dream about. Along with the accompaniment of an ambient score provided by composer Hildur Guðnadóttir, the viewer remains consistently captivated with the environment provided allowing for a comfortable and extremely memorable viewing experience.
Ultimately, Tár is Todd Field’s modern day masterpiece, the two and a half hour wonder is a beautiful, tense film that rewards its audience with every scene.
Tár is currently playing at the Cineplex Cinemas Varsity and VIP theatre.