Cate Blanchett portrays Lydia Tar, a fictional world-famous and enormously successful female classical music orchestra conductor. TAR, as directed by Todd Field, who previously directed the critically acclaimed In The Bedroom (2001) and Little Children (2006), is a fascinating showcase of his distinct style and vision. We are forced to confront the unusual from the start, a lengthy roll of the credits, which is normally shown at the end of the film, accompanied by a rather difficult to appreciate piece of indigenous music and song sung in a language nobody would understand. Todd claims that he wanted to do this to ensure that everyone who contributed to the film’s creation received proper credit. I must admit that I found this rather irritating and doubt that his goal was met because nobody really pays attention to these whether they are shown at the beginning or at the end. However, after seeing the entire film, I believe director Todd chose to do it to create a sense of disorientation in the viewer as a forewarning of his unconventional style of filmmaking that we are about to witness for the next 2 hours and 40 minutes.
Indeed, much of the way TAR is filmed is not what we would normally expect, but, in a good way. Todd takes his time in crafting the complex character of Lydia Tar out in the initial scenes such as the lengthy opening scene with an interview of Tar by the esteemed New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik. The interview felt so real and authentic because it was shown in real-time. This long one-shot technique was again used to great effect in another great scene showing Tar engaging in a lively discussion of music appreciation in today’s world with a group of students. Apart from the overall impact of such scenes, they served successfully to introduce us to the character as well as open up various topics for debate which are relevant to the story as we progress.
The film’s overall success would not be possible without an incredibly engaging script and strong performances from the cast. Cate Blanchett, who appears in nearly every scene, demonstrates her incredible talent as an actor yet again. As a result, there is a sense of authenticity that resonates in a story that is clearly fiction but could be mistaken for fact.
Todd Field, director and writer, has shown us what a formidable force he is behind the camera with TAR. His distinctive style stands out among the mostly mundane styles seen in other films. It’s intriguing and catches my attention. I confess I had a dreadful feeling when I saw the film’s running time of over two and a half hours, but I was pleasantly surprised not to be bored and thought the unhurried pacing was perfect.
Finally, I liked how our character’s story ended. Some may see it as her getting her just due, while others, including myself, see it as something more positive. I believe it shows us how Tar manages to adapt and still get to be involved with her passion abate at a different level. Tar has so much style and energy flowing from beginning to end that it is one of those films that demands multiple viewings, with each viewing revealing something new. This is one to keep an eye out for at the upcoming Academy Awards.