Amidst the cacophony of modern life, the titular character in Todd Field’s new film, Lydia Tár, is plagued by an exceptional sensitivity to sound. Each intrusive noise, from a doorbell’s ding to the relentless ticking of a metronome, jars her from her pursuits, rending her world with a disturbingly precise audio design. In this world, as in our own, escape from noise is elusive, and for Lydia, the only refuge is found in the sublimity of classical music.
Cate Blanchett delivers a mesmerizing performance as Lydia, a virtuoso pianist, ethnomusicologist, and popularizer of classical music. Lydia’s life is one of constant motion, from conducting seminars at Juilliard to recording Mahler symphonies in Berlin. As she prepares to record the final symphony in her Mahler cycle, the Fifth, she must navigate the demands of her career, her personal life, and the expectations of those around her.
At the film’s opening, Lydia is interviewed by New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik, setting the stage for a film that will delve into the complexities of Lydia’s life. She is a busy woman, with a quiet, efficient assistant, Francesca, and a wife, Sharon, who is also the concertmaster of the Berlin orchestra. Lydia dotes on her daughter, Petra, and her artistic pursuits are a constant interrogation, serving only the composer and herself.
As Lydia’s world begins to unravel, she sets her sights on a promising young cellist, Olga, playing games with senior orchestra members to promote her. But Lydia is not universally beloved, and she must also contend with the aftermath of a protégé’s suicide and the erasure of evidence that may implicate her.
“TÁR” is a true work of art, with a narrative that unfolds in a mysterious and captivating way. Field’s formal virtuosity is on display in every frame, from the note-perfect acting to the compositional affinities with Kubrick and Tarkovsky. It is a study in contrasts, with scenes of classical music’s grandeur and beauty set against the chaos and dissonance of modern life. The film’s central theme, the tension between artistic excellence and personal morality, is explored with subtlety and nuance.
Lydia Tár is a complex and multifaceted character, brought to life with stunning depth and nuance by Cate Blanchett. She is a flawed and imperfect person, driven by her artistic pursuits, but with a hunger for power and control that borders on the pathological. Blanchett’s performance is a tour-de-force, capturing Lydia’s contradictions and complexities with grace and precision.
“TÁR” is a triumph of filmmaking, a work of art that will captivate and challenge the viewer. It is a film that invites us to reflect on our own values and aspirations, and to consider the intersections of art, morality, and the human experience. This is a film is not a judgment, but an interrogation, one that compels the viewer to reflect on the beauty and flaws of the human experience.