Tár is a brooding take down of the ego and the analysis of the relationship between fame and power.
Carried effortlessly by a near career-best Blanchett, Tár is a psychological drama of the highest order. The film follows fictional conductor Lydia Tár as she works in Berlin for the symphony orchestra. Her exploits as the establishment’s matriarchal figure then come under scrutiny as the world around her soon comes crumbling down.
Tár’s narrative is one of greatness as it treats audiences with enough agency to make their own determinations about the film without being spoon fed or carried along. The film is a classic staple of ‘show don’t tell’ as Field never necessarily implants an agenda or specific allegory, but instead, allows the viewer to derive their own interpretations of Tar’s thematic richness. This is enhanced by the film’s simplistic editing and static cinematography – treating each shot as a canvas for the viewer to attach their own meanings behind. Though perhaps meandering to some, Tár’s narrative is one which operates much greater in retrospect after all the pieces have been played. By the film’s end, it allows audiences to revisit otherwise menial sequences and begin to attach connotations based on later revealed information. In this way, Tar is definitely a film which welcomes a comfortable rewatch. In more ways that one would think, the film has numerous similarities to that of Lee-Chang Dong’s Burning (2018) though to pinpoint exactly why would surely delve this review into spoiler territory.
The film’s dialogue is one which correlates nicely with the film’s themes. We open with a long interview with Lydia Tár which highlights all of achievements throughout her life. Her success, stature and lexicon make her feel like a figure who is untouched and unstoppable. Her dialogue is also tinged with a slight intimidation though one wonders if this is in fact a cause of her speech directly or in fact a subconscious fear enrooted from her power alone. Although the film is initially plagued with esoteric language bubbled to the world of classical music, this is soon popped by the primitive decay of the social standard, established throughout Tár. In this way, the farcical nature of high art is unmasked in all its glorious irony and, man, what a sight it is to see.
Tár in one aspect can be seen as a demonstration of ‘cancel culture’. It describes how power corrupts and moulds its welder into a narcissistic being but also how exposed and futile said being becomes once that power is wisped away. Field explores power as merely being a cloak one hides behind to connive without fear of repercussion. In relation to the film, the added discourse of separating the art from the artist is also one which falls under inspection. In the beginning of the film, references are made to the unruly exploits of classical composers who by today, are only remembered for their music other than their malicious deeds. Throughout Tár, the medium of classical music is treated as a vessel of an archaic culture – one struggling to translate into the modern world through both its attractions and values. Even Tár herself is caught between these two worlds – as a gay female conductor signalling over a male-dominated field. What we take away upon viewing Tár is that this culture of ignorance no longer applies to a well-documented and digitised world where actions are imprinted forever and taint one’s image for a lifetime and beyond.