Film Reviews

“A Stunning Assessment Of Fame-Fuelled Power”- Film Review: Tár

Ben Nathan

Following Little Children (2006), Todd Field returned in 2022 with his third feature film, and first in 16 years, Tár, a wonderful assessment of a world-famous classical music composer, and her fame-fuelled power. The film stars Cate Blanchett.

Lydia Tár is an EGOT, a woman of unparalleled achievements, and one of the greatest living composers in classical music. However, she is not a real person, even though you could be easily convinced she is. Tár follows this fictional character, and charts her journey as a powerful figure that grapples with her powerful position to determine how she navigates her actions and relationships in her life. The film ultimately centres on how Tár wields and enacts power, and the consequences this has on her during her downfall.

The film is a quiet assessment on themes such as identity, hierarchical power structures, cancel culture, and separating the art from the artist. A lot of commentary about this film has focused on what it says about cancel culture, and whilst it is an aspect, the film mostly uses Lydia Tár as the basis to explore what power means to someone, how far they are willing to go to obtain power, and to ultimately hold onto it.

Tár controls and manipulates power dynamics

Cate Blanchett leads this movie as Tár, and she shines. She is fantastic and dazzling as the central character, and she seems like the perfect choice to pull off a role like this. Blanchett convincingly and thrillingly shows us how Tár controls and manipulates power dynamics through other characters, mostly her wife and assistant, played by Nina Hoss and Noémie Merlant, respectively. She effectively conveys how paranoia and delusion occurs when that power starts to go away, and we see her significantly unravel as it goes on.

Lydia Tár is marked and governed by her own self-obsession and care for her image; the thought of someone else being the senior composer during a piece sends her into a violent rage. Tár is representative of the quintessential anti-heroine character, and she truly is a very unlikable person. Despite this, Blanchett’s nuanced performance and Field’s tender writing and direction makes you question if you should sympathise with her during her downfall, celebrate it, or feel nothing at all.

Consistently affirms that gender shouldn’t be a deciding factor

When it comes to identity, the film presents a complex view of gender politics. It is emphasised throughout that Lydia Tár defies gender expectations. She is in a lesbian relationship and they have an adopted daughter called Petra. Tár frequently refers to herself as Petra’s father, and consistently affirms that gender shouldn’t be a deciding factor when rising up the ranks in the conducting world; a woman can be as powerful as a man can be.

There is also a scene where Tár berates a pangender student for not wanting to engage with cisgender composers like Johann Sebastian Bach, stating they should look past the superficial appearances and appreciate the music. She presents both encouraging and discouraging point of views when it comes to gender, ultimately displaying a very complex and layered character that most people expect to see from male actors.

Obsession with power and image

Tár also presents a poignant and somewhat comedic ending, and without spoiling, we see Lydia Tár end up in place she probably never thought she would be. The film gives us many scenes where we get a peek into Lydia Tár’s life to understand her obsession with power and image, and it’s a film you’ll need to see yourself to dissect it to an effective degree.

Tár is a slow, quiet, but silently thrilling film anchored by Cate Blanchett’s brilliant performance that assesses positions of power and the consequences of how someone uses that power to their own benefit. This nuanced and in-depth character study will stay with you, and have you thinking long after the credits roll.

Ben Nathan

Featured image courtesy of Alex Watkin. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.

In-article images courtesy of @tarmovie via No changes were made to these images.

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