Tar Review – It’s one of the few films you will leave the theatre wanting more long after it ends.

Tár – review

Jason Cook

Who would have known the world of conducting orchestras was full of drama and deceit. This is exactly what makes this whimsical story of Lydia Tár’s rise and fall as one of the world’s greatest living composers and conductors intriguing.

The film opens with Lydia (Cate Blanchett) being interviewed for the New York Times in front of a large audience. Each question has clearly been planned and cleared by Lydia and her team as her assistant mouths along with the opening monologue. Lydia answers with perfection not missing a beat. You can tell there is something not quite right from the touching of her ear to her unnatural calmness she gives off.

Post interview Lydia is meeting and greeting when her assistant, Francesca, spots some innocent flirting. Quick to put an end to it, Francesca ushers Lydia on to her next engagement. It’s here we realise things aren’t as straightforward as they seem.

When Lydia finally settled down to her Berlin home, we meet her wife who happens to be in the orchestra Lyda conducts. We also get a glimpse into her world which includes their beautiful child they have together.

During rehearsals we get to understand the games Lydia plays. Hiring a sexy new member causing jealousy from her wife. The manipulation she has with the board to move out stale members and bring in fresh meat she can use to her advantage.

While this is all going on inside the orchestra an ex-student and possibly an ex-lover, has suicided with Lydia as the main suspect pushing this student to such measures.

From here Lydia’s world crumbles, finding herself working in a foreign country conducting an orchestra far from the great Berlin Philharmonic. 

The greatest part of this film has nothing to do with the film itself, rather the marketing. There will be few people who didn’t believe this was based on a real person. But the deeper you research the more you realise none of these events witnessed in the film exist, because in actual fact Lydia Tár is only real because of an outstanding marketing team.

It’s because of Cate Blanchett’s (Don’t Look Up, Thor: Ragnarok, Ocean’s 8) performance that would have many believe Tár is a real person. Her twitches, OCD, mannerisms are so fine and intimate you wouldn’t believe someone could think let alone act them so naturally. Blanchett isn’t new to creating a whole character with a backstory and a future. She becomes the character and Tár is no different. She captures something that sticks with you long after the film ends.

None of these great things could have been possible without the writing and direction of Todd Field. His ability to create this whole being on a piece of paper, then to create a whole world around them is nothing short of genius. He manages to find something in every piece of the film from the set to the performances to the carefully constructed dialogue. It’s one of the few films you will leave the theatre wanting more long after it ends.

You can’t make a movie about the world’s greatest conductor without its music and Tár does not disappoint. The score is the genius of composer Hildur Guðnadóttir who unlike Tár almost has the EGOT once she obtains a Tony Award. 

Guðnadóttir manages to find something to fill every breath, cover every wall and build a sound to ease into moment captured. Unlike the score of a non-music based film, Guðnadóttir has to build a world stronger than that of the greatness of Tár whilst also having the task of scoring a film itself. 

On one hand Guðnadóttir is finding meaning in the music Tár creates and conducts but also builds the feeling and mood around that with the film’s score. It’s done with perfection but not making the audience feel like they couldn’t understand what is being played to them.

The beauty of Guðnadóttir’s music is her ability to create something even a non-music trained person could understand. And by that it may not be that the audience can’t read music therefore they can’t understand the notes being played. The music is something anyone can understand and feel. A true masterpiece.

Overall, Tár is one of those films that will make an impression on you. If you walk out thinking it’s a true story and you need more information about this person, Director Todd Field has done his job. It’s full of #metoo, it’s a psychological thriller and you could probably even class it as a comedy of sorts. But at its core it’s the spectacular rise and fall of one of the world’s greats, and who doesn’t like to see someone fall from grace.

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