2023 The Year of Song and Verse №4
I find Tár, intriguing as a tragedy about a musician with the music not being the focal point of the plot. Lydia Tar is the focus, a woman at the height of her career as a Conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic. She is at the verge of completing the Mahler Symphonic cycle in live recording, her accolades are seemingly endless, her skills and talent immense and intimidating.
The movie displays moments of her at work but never extended interludes of music. Just moments of her interaction with musicians, academics, peers, students, and underlings. Her tragedy stems from the bifurcation of two aspects of Lydia Tár, first her uncompromising insistence on the her personal interpretation of music and insisting other conductors not be robotic copyist of others work. As a conductor on the podium she is a force and will of her vision of the music. Yet this is a pure Greek Hubris play. Tár earns her fate by taking on a demigod like status thinking nothing can knock her from her podium. She is conniving, and contractual in interaction, and because of her abuses she will suffer consequence. She is absolutely the architect of her own fate. She is vindictive and at times petty and ungenerous. She abuses her position to fulfill her desires thinking she is not risking her graces with the “gods”. She thinks she can avoid the fall and that she can treat every relationship outside her uncompromising one with music as a contractual quid pro quo.
While Mahler and Elgar are the composers the orchestra is performing in the screenplay’s musical sessions, their music was selected as a back drop as an example of cerebral music, an abstraction standing in for Lydia Tár’s concept of a musical ideal . It is not important if this music or this musical achievement means much to us, but that we see it is everything to Lydia. This music was chosen intentionally and shown in snippets so that Tár can be a tragic hero by how she acts to music not the particular music itself.
The director shies away from extended cuts of the music, showing Tar’s comments and interaction with the orchestra and music in-depth. We see Tár’s love for the music her passion for the craft, her refusal to share notes or show her scores to other conductors, she is only subservient to the music. Yet she owns her interpretation and will not let it be corrupted by lesser opinions or let others robotically steal her idea. In this she is heroic for this we root for her. Yet we see her as a human who will fall for sacrificing the ideal to the petty and treating others a chits and tokens as she leverages her positions for her non-musical desires.
Her passions and her desires are understandable, her lust is a common lust. Her pettiness is something we comprehend. She is tragic but yet hard to pity. Yet we wish she did not have to fall, and we lose something grand in her fall.
It is a brilliant screenplay which deserves a win for best actress for Blanchett and sadly two best actress nomination were missed for Nina Hoss and Noémie Merlant. The film is beautiful, the casting wonderous. A film where the unheard will resonate as much as music.