"Tár" Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
I'm sure the question going through everyone's head when the film ends on Todd Field's latest directorial effort, "Tár", is how much of it was real? The film, which serves as a psychological thriller of sorts about one of the most famous female conductors in the world, starts off very slow, and allows the viewer to observe the slow burn that Field had set up. With Cate Blanchett giving perhaps one of the best performances in her career, this film, from start to finish, has the viewer questioning everything, allowing them to determine their own reality in this fantastic socio-psychological thriller.
The film opens up on the accomplishments of Lydia Tár (Blanchett), such as being in the prestigious EGOT club and being the first female chief conductor at the Berlin Philharmonic. She is larger than life, and is incredibly intimidating to those who look up to her. When teaching classes and conducting her orchestra, she uses her power and ways of manipulation to get whatever she wants, knowing no one will be brave enough to stand-up to her or report her actions.
However, when reports come out about her toxic behavior and the fact she mistreats her students and peers, it seems like her life is in a downward spiral. She must now face her own personal demons and try to put her life back on track, while also trying to orchestrate her magnum opus of her career: Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 5.
When the movie starts and begins to progress, it is hard to know where this movie is heading or what the purpose is. It doesn't seem to really have a purpose, until the moment her assistant Francesca (Noémie Merlant) comes in and shows her something on her phone, that the viewer doesn't see or know what it is until later in the movie. The viewer then recognizes what this movie is and what it is trying to convey, but it's not really until the first hour mark in the movie.
This would be a major complaint I would have, for the film to wait so long to fully set up what the film is going for. However, when looking back at the beginning of this movie, it allows the viewer to see everything that we weren't paying attention to. Then, when we do move into the real meaty parts of the story, it makes the viewer feel appreciative of what it set up. In a way, Tár never really appreciated what she had until it was gone forever.
Now, for the question of whether this movie is a dream or a reality, it is up to the viewer's interpretation. This is brilliant on Field's part, who serves as the writer and director for this film. It seems like a David Fincher film in a way, due to the part where we're not sure what we saw throughout the latter half of this film. He crafts this brilliant story from beginning to end, and in between that he really allows Blanchett to shine and show off her acting chops.
Blanchett gives perhaps one of the biggest performances of her career. I am a huge fan of Blanchett's, and I adore her in everything she has been in, but she made me hate this character she plays. She is a vile and manipulative human being, and Blanchett, who isn't in real life, is able to bring that to life so perfectly. Consider the scene where she confronts her daughter's bully, who is only a child. She goes to her and tells her she will get her back and perhaps torture her, but if she tells, no one will ever believe her. This is the staple of her character. She uses her powers of manipulation and persuasion to get whatever she wants, and it allows her to perform these horrible acts and get away with it. I would say her performance is best in the last 30 minutes of the film, as her character suffers a major psychological break, reminiscent of characters like Travis Bickle and Daniel Plainview. She is great throughout this film, and I think she is a major contender for the Best Actress winner this year.
Even though this movie serves as a view through the window into the live of a famous composer, Field adopts horror and supernatural visuals throughout the movie. For keen eye viewers, they will see apparitions of a woman with red hair throughout the movie in random spots, who is Krista, one of Tár's disgruntled pupils from years ago. Whether it is a real ghost apparition or part of Tár's subconscious, the viewer will never know. We can guess, but we will really never know what Field was intending or going for. Perhaps that is his brilliance in crafting this movie, and I genuinely applaud him for everything he did here in this film.
Field returns with a new film over fifteen years after his last directorial effort, and I think he crafted a brilliantly terrifying film that looks at the real-world view of those in power. Not only does it rely on social commentary and detail how these sort of actions affects others, but it allows us, as the viewer, to really get inside the head of this person committing these wrongful deeds. Blanchett gives one of the best performances of her career in this powerful film that will be talked about for many years to come.