Todd Field has a special talent for capturing the human soul. Tár (2022) comes sixteen years after his previous work Little Children (2006) and twenty-one years after his feature directorial debut, In the Bedroom (2001). The common factor in his work is the sharpness with which he displays in images the deepest feelings of the human being. His cinematographic rhythm settles in the vortex of emotions that are born in each of his characters. His work beats to the rhythm of its central characters and generally in that role we have women who are pressured by external elements. This was the case with the characters of Sissy Spacek and Kate Winslet in his previous films and he reaffirms it now with Cate Blanchett.
The director and screenwriter stated that he conceived the character of Lydia Tár for Blanchett and that until he had her, he would not make the film. The strength of this character is enormous and what she demands in front of the camera is just as demanding as what it took offstage. Before the cameras began rolling, Blanchett had to retake piano lessons, learn German, and learn to conduct an orchestra. While she isn’t the first actress to plunge so deep into owning a character, the result she gets is one of the best performances in movie history. Tár is Blanchett and Blanchett is Tár.
Tár by Tár
It is enough that first sequence and seeing that Lydia Tár in total control of the world around her and moving pieces at will to know that we are at her mercy until the final credits roll. The world applauds her as one of the greatest composers and conductors of all time. She is at the height of her career and close to launching her biography, as she prepares her next project. From her Olympus, she feels in total control until an unexpected event threatens to wipe out her career and her private life with one blow. The film changes to an adagio as in the second movement of a symphony and slowly builds the moment for the climax and sinks us with a crushing denouement.
Florian Hoffmeister’s camera moves flawlessly. Sometimes he makes us be forced voyeurs and other times he makes us part of the action, as in the magnificent sequence shot in Julliard’s classroom. The interiors dominate, but when Hoffmesiter’s lens finds outdoor shots, he also achieves perfect framing. The veteran Hildur Guðnadóttir (Joker, Chernobyl) composes the music and when we are not in front of Bach, Mahler, Wagner or Verdi, it is her notes that accompany the steps of that Lydia Tár that Cate Blanchett interprets with the force of a freight train at full speed.
Tár is a profound character study that builds on an energetic drama that feeds on the problems of modern society to engender a fictional story that we can easily transplant into reality.