By: Amanda Guarragi
There have been many films that have tried to understand the complexity of artists. Some may have larger egos than others and some remain humble until the very end of their careers. The concept of art and what it means to give yourself fully to any medium within it always comes with a price. The composer, Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett) completely loses herself in her work and the label of one of the greatest of all time. Even though she has the talent, resilience, and accolades to warrant this label, times have changed, and she has not. Instead, Lydia Tár hides behind old ideologies to prove that it doesn’t matter what happens in the personal lives of these artists. She enforces the ruling that today’s generation must separate the art from the artist to understand the form of the medium.
Director Todd Fields writes and directs this icy, multifaceted exploration of fame in a new generation with an old mentality. Renowned musician Lydia Tár is days away from recording the symphony that will elevate her career. When all elements seem to conspire against her, Lydia’s adopted daughter Petra becomes integral emotional support for her struggling mother. The structure of this film worked in favour of Fields and Blanchett’s performance as Tár. Within the first scene, there’s an interview with her discussing who she is and why she became a composer in the first place. Fields also used this time to explore gender dynamics in the industry and how Tár has presented herself over the years. Blanchett effortlessly delivers paragraphs of lines educating the crowd on specific compositional terminology and the power of an orchestra.
It’s an incredible film that places Blanchett in the centre of every single scene as she descends into her darkness. The first half of this film has a clear direction in showing who Lydia Tár is and how she lives every day. We get to know her within minutes and see her eccentric nature as a composer. But like every artist who gets sucked into the fame and pressure of being the best, she forgets why she got into her field in the first place. This is where the film’s second half falters a bit because it loses its sense of direction. There is a scandal that Tár tries to suppress while trying to write a piece for her daughter because she is the one light in her life. Fields integrated the challenges of writing through her sleepless nights and hearing different sounds everywhere. The cinematography by Florian Hoffmeister is fantastic and keeps her at the center of everything for the entire film.
TÁR has another brilliant performance by Cate Blanchett. No one else could have taken on the massive responsibility of this role. This is the sharpest and most controlled performance that she has in her filmography. The character of Lydia Tár is consumed by power and feels like no one will ever be able to take her place. Having that mindset is dangerous because you lose a sense of self and even your purpose in life. The reason why Tár had any sense of humanity left in her was because of her wife Sharon (Nina Hoss). Hoss gave such a heartfelt, nuanced performance and was truly the beating heart of this film. Without Sharon and her daughter Petra, Tár spirals into nothingness because the perfect persona that she has built has been shattered in the public eye. Even though the film does run a bit long, it’s a fantastic character piece for Blanchett.