What In Tár-nation?
★★★★★ for Todd Field's Tár (2022)
Author’s note: this review contains spoilers for Tár (2022)
“And this piece was not born into aching tragedy, it was born into young love.”
“And you chose…?”
“Yes, but for how long?”
Before we watched the film, Charles and I joked with each other that the accent in the name Tár made no sense. It doesn’t change the pronunciation, it’s said just like the word tar. I say that perhaps it’s so audiences don’t think they’re watching a movie about pavement, Charles jokingly asks if the reason for this vestigial accent mark will be revealed in the film. To our surprise, it was.
We saw Tár at the Barbican (Tárbican?) Centre in London, a brutalist community arts center that offers £5 tickets to audiences under 26. I am remarkably glad we saw it in theatres, not for the size of the screen but for the quality of the audio, a Surround-sound wall of noise that seems completely necessary for a film about an orchestra conductor.
The film follows Lydia Tár, an EGOT-winning orchestra conductor once mentored by Leonard Bernstein, living in Berlin as she prepares to conduct the final in a series of symphonies by Gustav Mahler. It is a film about control, interpretation, haunting, the role of the artist, and the passage of time. (Contrary to many reviews, it is fundamentally not a film about “cancel culture” or “separating the art from the artist”.)
“Die Hoffnung stirbt zuletzt.”
The film’s first extended scene is shot plainly, with Tár being interviewed by New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik (playing himself) about her recent accomplishments and upcoming projects. The scene is long and literary, a simple shot-reverse shot of Tár and Gopnik with no additional sound or movement. Tár notes that being a woman is unimportant to her place in the musical world, others had broken the glass ceiling far before her, an indication to the audience that the film is not to be read as an indictment of misogyny or identity politics, but as a portrait of a single individual. Every key theme of the film returns to this conversation, which outlines Tár’s motivations, fears, and desires.