Todd Field’s TÁR begins with a literal profile of the eponymous star composer the film follows. As The New Yorker writer Andrew Gopnik goes through a laundry list of accolades and accomplishments, one cannot help but begin feeling palpable excitement in the air. Whether you have any knowledge or even an interest within the realm of classical music and composition is irrelevant. In a few short paragraphs detailing Lydia Tár, Field’s script is able to breathe life into a character fully formed and ready for the audience to witness her birth. And thus, we are introduced to Tár, standing just off stage, taking on the appearance of both a student terrified to give a final presentation but also a clear expert in her craft, long past the point of needing to prove anything to anyone. Yet Tár makes it abundantly clear the moment she begins answering questions as if they are second nature: even so far into her career, she refuses to settle down and remain even remotely stagnant. On the contrary, it seems her constant striving for perfection has only multiplied and morphed into something entirely different. And while Field’s script efficiently dives into every well-hidden crack of this perfectly sculpted character, it is in Cate Blanchett’s performance that TÁR goes far beyond a typical character study. In a statement regarding the film, Field said, “In every possible way, this is Cate’s film... This script was written for one artist, Cate Blanchett. Had she said no, the film would have never seen the light of day.” Immediately, it’s wholly understandable to see just why he might have been so enamored with the actress. In what can only be described as a constant battle of tenacity, Blanchett turns in a performance that any actor would give up a whole career for. It is quite literally a career-defining performance, one in which Tár revels at the opportunities she has to control time itself. When she is on the podium conducting, she justifiably feels invincible. With impeccable attention to detail and an even sharper dedication to bringing every facet of her character to life, Blanchett soars, even when her character’s life quickly begins crashing around her. As the hyper-obsessive star becomes more and more desperate for control, she begins to warp the very nature of those within her inner circle. As previously stated, while Tár loves to control time itself when conducting, it seems she loves the power of controlling others on a more foundational level. And the behavior of those around her only adds to that observation.
From a perpetually moving knee to the immediate retraction of frustrated venting, to be in the mere presence of someone like Tár is clearly anxiety-inducing. Both Field and Blanchett capitalize on this raw nerve, because the audience itself will certainly feel every look and piercing word deeply. Around Tár, there is no choice. She is a freight train barreling down the tracks with no thoughts of braking. This immense power within a single individual is bound to get into the head of whoever is at the top. It’s something that can be witnessed throughout history, in just about every possible field that has ever existed. From political figures to some of the most beloved artists of all time, there are the famous, and then there are the worshiped. And in the case of the latter, Field seems to believe this can only lead to one thing: a justifiably hard fall. As Tár'a world begins to crumble around her, those who we saw cowering or biting their tongue begin moving to the forefront of the film. Make no mistake, this is still very much Blanchett’s film in how it is a complete deconstruction of her character. Yet those that often surround her are equally as captivating. All the key players in the film have a direct connection to Tár, whether it be romantically, professionally, or somewhere in the hazy, gray area in between. So by extension, they have all learned exactly what type of person she can be; And those power dynamics are also explored in incredibly fascinating ways. From relationships that are “purely transactional”, as Nina Hoss’ Sharon puts it, to the Russian cellist Olga, who is one of the few people that can seemingly put Tár in her place, it’s a welcome shift in dynamic that is explored to a thrilling, and genuinely jaw-dropping, conclusion.
At her book release, Tár describes her music as noises that are the closest thing to the divine. To others, it’s just noise; In the case of one scene in the film, this is taken quite literally. As the credits of TÁR begin to roll, it may feel as if you have just witnessed a miracle. Such a compelling and unique character piece as this deserves every ounce of attention and acclaim it receives, and is just ripe for dissection and discussion. Yet one can’t help but wonder of all those characters that Tár has taught or inspired. Will they be caught up in the cycle she found herself in if they mimic her in hopes of ascending towards stardom? With every power move made in this film, both publicly and privately, there is an immense impact that reverberates throughout the rest of it. To interpret such acts is where the fun resides in something like this, a film that is practically impossible to remove your stunned gaze from. In the quest for glory and everlasting legacy, TÁR shines a light on the flipside of this quest for otherworldly stardom. All the glory in the world cannot hide who a person is at their very core.
Focus Features will release TÁR in theaters nationwide on Friday, October 7, 2022.