Is it inevitable that you will cross the line in a position of strength to maintain this position? How do you continue to take technical risks in such a situation? Director Todd Field seeks answers to these questions in “Tar,” with Maestro Cate Blanchett in the role.
Herbert von Karajan. Andrew Previn. Simon Rattle. Carlos Clipper. Leonard Bernstein. Each of them are great conductors of classical orchestras, artists who have managed to take symphony orchestra interpretations to a higher level. Another quality that unites them: they are (or were) all men.
After all, classical music is a well-known male bastion. It is enough that it took, say, until 2014 before the Berlin Philharmoniker hired a female brass player. Or that it was only in 2007 that a woman appeared at the head of an important American orchestra – Maren Alsop, who became the director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
- Tár is a psychological drama directed by Todd Field.
- The film is about a 50-year-old woman who has reached the top in the male environment of the conductors of classical orchestras.
- She cannot resist the abuse of her position of power, with far-reaching consequences.
- “Tár” stands out for its nuanced depiction of a very specific world and Cate Blanchett’s formidable lead performance.
So from the very beginning you feel sympathy for the main character (fictional) from Todd Field’s excellent drama “Tar”. Lydia Tár has managed to conquer the seemingly impregnable fortress of classical music. You shattered one glass ceiling after another. At 50, she can proudly call herself an EGOT, the Grand Slam of the Arts Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony. She is the first female conductor of a leading German orchestra. She is about to publish a book. And there’s the impending performance of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, one of her most beloved works.
The Lydia we get to know, who brings lead actress Cate Blanchett to life with stunning precision, has everything you could dream of professionally. In her private life, things seem to be going well for her. Her wife, Sharon, loves her, and together they are raising an adopted daughter. However, the stress Lydia’s job places on her causes tension, and it doesn’t take long for the cracks to appear. Her position and prestige have lured Lydia into manipulation and arrogance.
Tarr excels as a subtle portrait of a remarkable woman, with all her contradictions. Or, as director and screenwriter Todd Field puts it on GoldDerby.com: “The film takes a look at someone who is complex, competent, hypocritical, deceitful, and sometimes even lying.” Simply put, she’s human. Is that why she was convicted of all charges? Possible and maybe not. But she is definitely guilty of humanity.
One of the film’s great merits is precisely that it refuses to give hard answers or draw moral conclusions. One minute you’re feeling Lydia Tarr’s admiration, and the next you’re making decisions that push boundaries. But Todd Field is careful not to portray his main character as a hero or a villain. Her motives always seem reasonable and understandable, even if you know they are out of place. It’s very likely that you’ll judge it very differently when you watch the movie a second time – something Tár’s movie is quite forgiving.
Director Todd Field is careful not to portray his main character as a hero or a villain. Her motives always seem reasonable and understandable, even if you know they are out of place.
Not a false note
Field does his best to represent as accurately as possible the world Lydia moves through. The director wanted to make a film that could convince even the most senior insider. For this he called on the knowledge and experience of John Mosseri. The outstanding leader wrote a series of books on discipline, taught at Yale University and was once an assistant to Leonard Bernstein. The result is a movie that doesn’t sound false on any level.
However, “Tár” is not necessarily a story about music or even classical music. It is about power relations in the broadest sense of the word, and you will find it wherever there is a hierarchy. From there, the movie raises relevant questions. Does someone’s behavior automatically detract from their professional talent? Are art and ethics closely related? Is it possible to hold a position of power without abusing it? Does the pressure of strength mean that you are no longer inclined to take risks and challenge yourself?
“Tár” fits in perfectly with today’s cancel culture, but it’s so much more than that.
The movie “Tár” is in cinemas from this week.