We are a day away from the weekend and before the new releases start pouring in, I thought of squeezing in another review from the International circuit. And with that I finished watching Tár, a film that has slowly been garnering all the accolades due to one of the great performances by its protagonist, Cate Blanchett. She has been the talk of the town with many people touting her performance as “Oscar-Worthy”. As always, I knew nothing about the film and went into the film oblivious of what to expect. So then does Tar manage to leave a lasting impression, lets find out.
Story & Screenplay
Set in the International World Of Classical Music, Tár follows the rise and fall of the first female conductor of a major German orchestra. Now, contrary to what the film was promoted as, this is NOT a biopic. The story essentially focuses on a fictional musician who happens to be at the top of her game until it does come crumbling down. I must say that the story is niche and more of an acquired taste. And that has not only to do with its conversational structure but also the musical jargons that are thrown in the narrative every now and then. The screenplay standing at almost 160 minutes does seem longer than it actually is and that has a lot to do with its narrative style. But I wasn’t complaining as I found myself uncannily sinking in what was an absorbing drama in many ways!
An interesting element in the screenplay is how organically the pandemic is integrated in the narrative. In the very first scene, an ongoing interview gives so much information not only about the protagonist but also the setting of the drama which results in an enthralling world building phase. This was quite unique to the drama and rather clever to not quite invest on the backstory of the protagonist, and lay all your focus in current times with frequent glimpses of flashbacks that tell you a story from the past every time! The core of the drama does lie in the characterization and the character dynamics. So your first impressions about the protagonist do not last the distance. With every passing scene, as you begin to judge the protagonist, your opinions about her as a person does keep on changing. But one thing that remains constant is the art of an artist that results in some of the most soothing scenes of the drama. The symphonies are beautifully constructed and organically placed in this rousing drama.
The drama here does occasionally slip into a dark place, making it subtly psychological. Now I would like to bring the reference of the English Film Blonde and why that film did not work but this does, although the trajectories of both the dramas are similar. The former almost never did focus on the achievements of the protagonists and instead used her as a bait even for the modern day audience. But here, the writers have established the achievements of the protagonist well but more importantly, even her downfall coupled with a sneak into her disturbed mind did feel organic. It wasn’t like a switch that went off, only for the drama to change its course. It was organic and felt like a natural progression all along!
The drama does well in subtly and deftly addressing the politics which would eventually lead to the downfall of the protagonist. Be it professional or personal, the softness in the drama and its conflict at several places is what makes the drama niche in many ways, yet sets it apart from other “biopics”. There is not one antagonist but the situation and the circumstances that fuel a couple of twists and turns in this drama which is a slow burn right throughout. Even a couple of subplots involving the homosexu*lity(censoring it to beat the google adsense algorithm) of the individual add a lot of texture to the drama!
There is a distinct sense of urgency with the events leading up to the final act. There are bouts of madness but never really out of character in what seemed like the lowest phase of the protagonist. The detailing is terrific but the writers continue to treat the drama as life in general. So while there is a downward spiral, there is always an element of hope that keeps lurking, ending this magnificent drama with a lot to think and ponder about! Overall, the screenplay is subtle, nuanced and really impactful.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are conversational in nature and so it does make this drama niche with an acquired taste. It is not for anyone, especially those who are looking for entertainment from cinema. In fact, it makes the drama brooding with much to ponder about. Also, many lines are in German that does add a nice little flavour to the place where the drama is set in.
The music set pieces are beautiful and soothing that go beautifully with the drama. Any budding musicians out there would be able to appreciate it even better. The BGM is sparingly used and blends perfectly with the drama. The cinematography captures some beautiful frames with the right sense of colour grading that is neither too bright nor too dull, just somewhere in the middle like life. Director Todd Field returning for a feature film after 16 years has done an incredible job with the detailing here as well as his leisurely paced story telling technique.
The performances are just so natural here by every single actor. Nina Hoss as Sharon is beautifully restrained here. Sophia Kauer as Olga looks pretty and does a great job. Sylvia Flote as Krista has her moments to shine as well. Noémie Merlant as Francesca is brilliant and does a phenomenal job. But the show does belong to Cate Blanchett who delivers an acting masterclass as Lydia Tár. I have no doubt in my mind that she will be getting the Oscar this year for this towering act. She naturally takes you on a roller coaster of emotions that felt just so natural without any stutters while switching emotions. It was a smooth transition in a performance of a lifetime!
Tár is niche in many ways that may cater only to true cinephiles. Yet, this drama is a riveting and organic portrayal of a rousing artist. This film comes with my highest recommendation!