The third feature film by the actor -we remember his interpretation of Nightingale in Kubrick’s last masterpiece, Eyes Wide Shut– and director Todd Field is his return behind the camera sixteen years after the successful Little Children. Field is also the author of the screenplay for Tár, the surname of a successful American orchestra conductor who, despite being acclaimed in the world of classical music, has to face day after day both professional difficulties and the uncertainties and ghosts of her personal life.
Field’s portrait of Lydia Tár – a superb, if at times somewhat overdone Cate Blanchett – is somewhere between a realistic portrayal – several of the names and orchestras mentioned are indeed from the past and present world of classical music – and one that is entirely fictional. In fact, the success achieved by the conductor, her contracts for Deutsche Grammophon, the glamour of her public image, as well as her influence on renewed orchestras with the Berlin or New York Philharmonic are, unfortunately, hard to find in the careers of the female conductors we see today.
This ambiguity ends up influencing the development of the plot, especially the moments describing the work of the conductor, as the situations often fall into the trap of insisting on unnecessary and often untrue stereotypes related to the figure of the performers of the classical repertoire; the whims, the exaggerated and totally unnecessary gestures in the direction of the orchestral ensembles, as well as the protagonist’s need to find an isolation that takes her away from real life.
Better are the parts devoted to Tár’s personal life, which focus above all on the description of her obsessions – the ones about sound and silence are very successful – and her passions for the women around her. However, the film’s problem is that, although it sometimes captures in a very compelling way the signs of a deep existential unease, it often does so too allusively, leaving us with only hints and never delving into the intimate reasons for these concerns. A pity, since the material could have been used in a more captivating way, without falling into an ending whose resolution is unnecessarily forced, unconvincing and somewhat banal.