Tár: Despicable, Admirable, Layered



Tár has had the internet in a frenzy since its release a little over three months ago. The minutiae of the film leave much to be dissected, which has led to a deep division in viewers' opinions. Nevertheless, I found it to be an entertaining tale of ultimate defeat that is shot and acted in a way that makes it feel almost like a documentary. Despite the excellence of cinematographic techniques, the film is not without its detriments; Ultimately, it is a triumph for the lead actress Cate Blanchett, but it makes certain questionable choices that detract from potential perfection.

The most striking part of this movie is Blanchett’s performance. Her depiction of the despicable Lydia Tár is utterly believable, driving home the semi-documentary feel I have noted. Egotistical, controlling, brilliant, and driven, Tár is as admirable as she is dislikeable. She is so successful in her field it is almost comedic as if she had lived several lifetimes accumulating accolades. Tár’s passion is palpable as she conducts the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra; Blanchett further accentuates her attention to the detail of the character that she is playing. This precision is carried throughout the rest of the movie, with the orchestral scenes played accurately by an actual cast of musicians. The cinematography is top-notch, with a beautifully graded palette that helps to build the feeling of coldness permeating from Tár and a variety of beautiful sets to paint the image of her wealth and success.

While Lydia Tár is the epitome of success in her field, much of this is due to her controlling tendencies and the suffering of those around her. She grooms many of the young aspiring conductors that come to her for guidance and, in several instances, uses them as a sexual vice to distract from her failing marriage. This is one of the main detriments critics cite; was it necessary to have this supposedly representative female character simultaneously exhibit many toxic tendencies commonly associated with men in similar positions? Was her character genuinely original, or was it a simple gender reversal on real-life documented conductors known to have been abusive and lecherous? Does her depiction help pave a path for prospective female conductors in the modern era, or has it built an immortal comparison?

Regardless of how you take these choices and answer these questions, it is undeniable that Tár is a beautifully artistic and thoughtful film that asks pensive questions. Whether it gives adequate answers is another topic altogether. However, I ultimately found it to be a lesson in humility and passion. No matter how high you climb or how successful you become, your impact on others proves equally as crucial as your achievements. In the final sequence of Tár, she has been figuratively exiled to ambiguous south Asia (another questionable choice on the production’s part). Lydia Tár is stumbling through life, practically begging for work. This is the image of ultimate defeat that the film has created. The lesson herein, I find, is in Tár’s commitment to her field. Despite her failures and ignorant of her problematic characteristics, she remains driven and committed to her art.


Tags: Tár, Cate Blanchett, Film, Defeat

Author: Judah Bachmann

Artist: Judah Bachmann