Todd Field's

Creating Tár
The Monster Hunter
The Purge

Creating TÁR

TÁR is a peculiar character as she's not so interesting in and of herself but for her invisibility. Yet a good deal of effort has gone into making Tár feel so real that people question if she is based on a real person, her name precedes her in such a way that individuals have felt they are settling in to watch a film about a someone who has done real things and has accrued remarkable accolades during her ride to the top of her field. She feels, in this way, like she is already well known by others and now it is your turn to get to know her and what she has done. How better to do this than to begin the film not by emblazoning the screen with the name of the actress who plays her--and which immediately distances Tár as a character--but with the end credits, the acknowledgements, which also seems very democratic, to shift focus so that everyone who's had a part in the creation of Tár is given their due rather than relegated to the walk-out music. If Tár were a real individual, this inversion is not something she would have elected to do.

We are also distanced from the fiction of Tár by thereafter being plunged directly into the interview with her conducted by Adam Gopnik, rather than an actor playing a famed essayist on the arts, who is also himself a lyricist. He is a real person and this reinforces the reality of Tár--even as we are presented scenes during the interview that deconstruct Tár's carefully constructed identity and presence. Undoubtedly Tár's responses during the interview are not off-the-cuff but rehearsed. She will have given many interviews and will have said much the same thing in others, which is typical for most personality-celebrities.

But note, Tár's assistant Francesca, when shown in the darkened aisles of the audience silently miming the canned speech, she is miming not Tár but Gopnik's extended introduction, at the end of which he asks if Tár is embarrassed by the litany of accolades. This may be extemporaneous, but we know from Francesca's familiarity with it that the introduction was likely prepared by Tár's people, or Gopnik submitted to them a version for approval and it was tweaked by them. Why else would Francesca know his words by heart?

While this canned introduction unfolds, we view the rolling up of the rug in her personal apartment space (rather than the home she shares with her wife/partner/first violinist of the symphony Tár conducts) and the choice she makes for her new album of Gustav Mahler's Symphonie No. 5. She will reconstruct herself as Claudio Abbado as he appears on the album cover of his recording of Gustav Mahler's Symphonie No. 5, as opposed to Tár's stated early mentor, Leonard Bernstein, and how he appears on the album cover of his recording of Mahler's Symphonie No. 9. A selection of albums have been tossed on the floor and we are shown not only Tár's foot deciding upon the Abbado, but another one that mirrors her own so closely that it could also be Tár's foot. We are shown her clothes being tailored by Egon Brandstetter, a real establishment, which further bolsters her reality. We have such particulars as Lydia Tár's measurements being recorded, precise facts that further enliven her. This focus on the prestige degree of craft that goes into the constructing of Tár's ornamentation, however it contributes to her reality, also exposes Tár's manufacturing of a disguise via her modeling herself in the image of Abbado, the famed conductor of Mahler's work, aided step-by-step by her personal assistant who is well aware of what Tár is doing and a trusted accomplice. Tár even has audience seating delivered to her apartment home so that she may privately enact her inhabiting the chosen album cover, examining herself in a mirror, so that when the time comes in the film for her album photo to be taken she is able to guide the photography and art direction into the vision she's already plotted, even while she tells the photographer she wants something less "considered" than his choices.

Curiously, in a discussion in which she disdains Sebastian, her assistant conductor, Tár brings up his strange "fetishization" of certain objects, such as dead-stock pencils he's observed the conductor Von Karajan hold in photographs. Her dinner companion, Eliot Kaplan, a financial advisor, also a conductor, remarks this is "sad". But we have just observed Tár's fetishization of the accoutrements of Abbada. She seems to be throwing the scent off her own actions. By scorning Sebastian's fetishizations, if it's ever noted how she may have copied another, then this can be countered and deflected with opinions she's previously expressed.




Gopnik, during the interview, brings up the origin of the role of dedicated conductor, the maestro on his podium who assumed and expanded upon duties previously performed by the first violinist/concert master (it is quite a power duo Tár has, married to the first violinist of the Berlin Symphony). Lydia tells the story of Jean-Baptiste Lully as the fabled traditional first, serving in the court of King Louis the XIV, describing how he rigorously pounded his staff, keeping time, likely to the annoyance of his musicians, and the audience laughs when she relates one day he accidentally pounded his foot with the staff and died, in consequence, of gangrene from that wound. The laughter seems aimed at the hubris of the overbearing man, but the staff that will stab Tár's foot is already being prepared amongst the prodiges of Accordion, a foundation she'd created to enable women in the music world.

Tár surprises when she states she sees no need for any longer creating special spaces for women to have opportunities they were previously denied. Gender bias, she holds, is a matter of the past. Trotting out a few examples, she asserts that women have achieved equality. Yet we have been shown how she has modeled herself on a man. Some might argue this is sensible as Tár's identity is masculine, she later identifying herself as her daughter's father, but in respect of creating opportunities for women as a sex rather than gender, we are talking about the effect of generations of patriarchy that emphatically excluded Eve's daughters as creatures who were argued to be absent of the soul that had been breathed into Adam, without creative abilities, who could never be anything but mothers, sexual vessels and servers of a lower status as their minds were vain, plodding, sinister, and wholly uneducable. When Tár later reveals she wants to open up her foundation to men as well, the only argument that dissuades her from doing so is that they may lose funding. Tár's vision seems to be clouded by her own success, she neglecting the fact that, of top orchestras, only five per cent of the music performed is composed by women. This is a fact that Tár would know.

Tár has conquered the musical world and is considered to be the top conductor (at least her Wikipedia page states this), but along the way, or perhaps in service to this conquest, she has also moved into the position of the preserver of tradition, which can as ably be occupied by a woman as a man. She has attained a level of considerable power, and the film immediately, as soon as the interview is over, shows how others are drawn to this, and how Tár uses that power to her advantage sexually. Francesca is obviously used to this, observing with barely veiled irritation as a young woman flirts with Tár and Tár easily navigates the situation into one wherein she will not only end up spending an evening with the woman but being gifted her bag which she'd admired. This is an exchange between two consenting adults, but later, when acting as a guest lecturer at Julliard, Tár uses that power to stomp all over a student who has earned her disfavor by choosing to conduct atonal "new music" by an Icelandic woman, Anna Thorvaldsdottir, to whom Tor appears to feel some antipathy. She says, "Now, you can intellectually contemplate, or masturbate, about the felicity of the so-called 'atonal', but the important question here is: what are you conducting? What is the effect? What is it actually doing to me?" We "conduct" our lives as well so we have an impact on others, and Tár's manner has the student conductor's leg shaking nervously. "Good music can be as ornate as a cathedral, or bare as a potting shed, so long as it allows you to answer both those questions." Demanding he answer these questions, Tár turns her attention back to the student conductor she'd earlier interrupted, who had chosen Anna Thorvaldsdottir's "Ro". He says that at a master class she held, Anna said her form was influenced by the Icelandic landscapes of her youth, but he's not certain if she was interested in expressing its sounds. Tár responds by dismissing the composition, criticizing its intent as "vague, to say the least", and makes a comparison with the predicament of the individual faced with conducting John Cage's "4'33" (a silent work that demonstrates for the living individual there is no such place as silence). She boisterously, aggressively addresses the students that now is the time to conduct music everyone knows but will be heard differently through their interpretation. When she proposes Max conduct a Mass by Bach, he protests, uninterested in Bach as he is BIPOC and pangender and he views Bach as misogynistic. Tár's response deplores that many symphony orchestras see it as their "imperial right to curate for the cretins". She procedes to try to educate Max on the pleasures of Bach's music, then when he says that White, male, cis composers aren't his thing, she grabs his nervous, shaking leg to immobilize it and tells him, "Don't be so eager to be offended. The narcissism of small differences leads to the most boring conformity." Tár's ostensible instruction could be seen as an attempt to separate the art from the artist, which is indeed a serious question and matter for debate. She asks if the student wants to be judged for how he conducts or who he is, then goes on to suggest that his musical interests are unreasonable because as a BIPOC male he has nothing in common with a White Icelandic woman--which is when he gets fed up and calls her a bitch and walks out. To which Tár responds that the architect of his soul is social media. Meaning cancel culture. She calls out after him, "You want to dance the mask, you must service the composer, you gotta sublimate yourself, your ego, and, yes, your identity. You must, in fact, stand in front of the public and God and obliterate yourself."

The conversation was doomed from the moment Tár said the students could intellectually contemplate "or masturbate" about the felicity of the so-called atonal. Actually, it was doomed before that in her immediate attitude toward "Ro", her sarcasm and the spite she often directs at those who haven't her power. Attacking is not teaching, and the "masturbation" comparison is a particularly rank, meaningless, and cynical domination move, intentionally disarming by sexualization. Tár, who had studied five years in the Amazon, the music of an indigenous people, is so devoted to the traditional musical canon of the "Western" male world that she doesn't begin to consider how a class on conducting is not about schooling someone on their personal preferences and certainly shouldn't be about persuading them not to like the "new" music of the atonal "Ro".

Truth is, there are few who haven't been in a position where they haven't had to experience the necessity of having to "dance" the mask", who haven't in some way had to sublimate themselves, their ego, their identity, due to constrictions of job, society, family. Yes, many more so than others. Tár, as a lesbian, would be vitally in touch with how this should not be. But Tár's declaration of ego-sacrifice sheds some illumination on what she may have lost on her own rise to fame, she having determined the benefits and privileges outweighed the risks to denying an integrity of self. Only later do we see how anxious she would have been to separate herself from her past, one we will later learn was lower class, bereft of sophistication, perhaps even of appreciation for her devotion to music. We don't know the particulars of her estrangement--the film is as silent on them as she would be. What will later become apparent is her shame over her lower class origins and the diligent effort she would have had to put into making the identity of Tár, who she has imagined exhibits every trait of owning the world to which she aspired. We only understand the reason for her irritation with her wife, Sharon, leaving on lights in rooms not in use when Tár reluctantly returns to visit her childhood home, which is dark, shrouded with cheap wood paneling throughout, and not enough electric light employed to combat that darkness because of a necessary frugality.

Tár extends to no one else the sympathy she demands for herself, to be expressed as obsequious submission to the privilege she now possesses, even as she masks herself as humble. Beneath the calm exterior, aided by beta blockers, she is a fury of rage against the world.

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The Monster Hunter

Tár's world is one of sophisticated aesthetics. She works in grand buildings, old and new, styled to house the epitome of culture--as in art that is distinguished as reaching beyond the human into the best that can be achieved in art's service as a veritable religion, conduit to God and exorciser of demons. Tár's world is one of stringent organization, in which there seems no detail that isn't curated and perfectly deployed. The home she shares with Sharon and Petra may not be opulent but it communicates the security that abides in the luxurious circumstances of not only being far and above want but with the inescapable implication being that these are individuals who deserve the best as they appreciate the best and have worked to achieve the best (and if it seems an irrelevant thing to bring up, the movie also makes a subject of wild disparities in money and class when Tár goes to Francesca's apartment after she quits and we view the conditions in which her personal assistant has lived, a situation that indicates she is not thriving). Though Tár has possession of certain areas of their home in which Petra is not allowed to intrude, that home is not only about Tár, it makes room for a family, the intention is that it be a safe haven for them together, for which reason Tár has needed to keep her old apartment which is beautifully maintained in near puritan minimalistic asceticism. Understandably it functions as a creative studio, a place where she can think and work, and where she conducts her extramarital life that has long since been accepted by Sharon. How she uses her environments is one thing. How the environments themselve function as masks as well as protective spaces is another. The baser inclinations have always been associated with poverty and disorder, with not only the wretched, the "ugly", with dirt, but anything that suggests intemperance, such as clashing bold colors, passion, the hubbub intensity of the masses. Perhaps it is for this reason the predominate colors of the film are cool grays and taupes.The containers designed for Tár's streamlined, music-oriented world each deploy a considered face of Tár, the most personal one being her very private apartment that cuts closest to the bone of her while keeping her above judgment in its rather personable simplicity. Because the film concentrates on Tár's environments and her privacy, the audience can feel they don't know what exactly Tár has done and if it merits the judgment that rains down on her, or if she becomes the victim of so-called identity-centered cancel culture. Her accomplishments and financial rewards, her environments, her clothing, the limos in which she rides, all reinforce and message Tár as an individual of worth far and above others, and how should a person of such achievement be treated when accusations are made of gross improprieties, the sexual manipulation of proteges, and blacklisting those who do not comply. Tár may have expected that the structures of power that embraced her would protect her, just as they have protected many men before her. Or she may have counted on never being caught. She may have believed that she, as a person of authority and power, would and must always be the one viewed in the right. When her daughter confesses she's being abused at school, rather than go to the school or the parent of the offending young child, she approaches them directly and tells them, "I know what you're doing to her. And if you ever do it again, do you know what I'll do? I'll get you. And if you tell any grown-up what I just said, they won't believe you. Because I'm a grown up. But you need to believe me. I will get you." Oddly, she finishes with, "Remember this...God watches all."

Tár's students and proteges are like this little girl. Even her personal assistant. As far as Tár is concerned, the grown-up in the room is her, the one with power, privilege, fame, money. The rest hardly factor, except as fans.

The film is actually very clear about what Tár has done. Though its point-of-view, concerned as it is with Tár, is within the castle walls of her privacy, a situation that has, until now, effectively distanced her from criticism both from the outside and even within her own psyche, the movie opens with someone--likely Francesca--live-streaming to another a video of Tár asleep at a table on the private plane by which she travels. What's so wrong about sleeping at the table? Nothing, except that Tár has history and those who are communicating with one another know at least a part of it. "Haunted", writes one. "Ha, you mean she has a conscience", replies the other. "Maybe," answers the one streaming the video. "You still love her then," responds the other. Tár also counts on individuals once having experienced her desire never exposing her. She is, after all, "the great one" as Krista Taylor calls her.

When we first see Krista Taylor, a victim of Tár's who will die by suicide, it is from the rear at the hall where Tár is having her interview with Gopnik. We never have a scene in which she becomes a character with a face. Tár refuses to interact with her, and so we are also distanced from the young woman. In place of an accounting of their history, we are instead shown the process of the predator pattern beginning again. After Krista's death we watch as Tár begins to groom a young cellist who she first sees in a bathroom and thus is able to pick her out of a blind audition by a glimpse of her footwear as she descends the steps from the screened stage that is supposed to assure anonymity (instituted to prevent gender bias and was successful). Sometimes one may wonder if the cellist is flirting with Tár, but it wouldn't matter as Tár is supposed to be the responsible one of the two. Sometimes one may wonder if instead the cellist isn't in league with some others to unnerve Tár and help orchestrate her fall, or if she simply represents fate having had its fill of Tár. Then one may decide it's her manner of deflecting Tár's pursuit of her, and she is simply so self-confident and unimpressed that she has no problem with befuddling Tár with criticisms, preoccupied with her own talent and the company of her peers.

There is no doubt that Tár has abused Krista. We are given glimpses of the dozens of emails Tár has sent to orchestras telling them not to hire her, that she is unstable, and messages from Krista to Francesca in which she begs to speak with Tár, confused by why she has been so shunned, torn apart by rejections from every orchestra to shich she applies. If one still wonders if Krista may be the problem, the fact that others also come forward with tales of sexual manipulation and blacklisting confirm that something has been very wrong in Tár's circle.

We are shown that Tár doesn't like Eliot Kaplan and that any friendship they do share is a false contrivance on her part, perhaps also on his. Eliot is useful for Tár and shares her contempt for the her assistant conductor Sebastian. Tár uses Eliot. It may be that Eliot, who wants to learn Tár's conducting secrets, uses her as well.

In her own way, Tár may love Sharon, but theirs was a transactional relationship from the beginning, Tár using Sharon's knowledge and proximity to power to get to where she wanted to be. She abuses Sharon's trust sexually, but Sharon knows this and accepts it. What Sharon doesn't know is that Tár steals her beta-blockers. That suggests even a greater betrayal of trust, of having largely cut Sharon out of her confidence without Sharon being aware of it.

Tár doesn't much like people at all, anyone, covering this with her very considered charisma, so it's no surprise that her manner of very personally connecting with others tends to be through cultivating a camaraderie based on mutual distastes. When the new cellist appears on the scene, one she seemingly would like to perhaps even move into being her next personal assistant, she begins the process of shedding Sebastian so he may be replaced by Francesca. But when this looks like a politically iffy move, and Francesca falters and begins to break out of her allegiance to Tár subsequent Krista's suicide, she is sacrificed.

The phone as witness operating, in a sense, as god's eye that sees everything, we have another scene in which Francesca live-streams to another mocking Tár, and yet another in which an unidentified person does so, this time mocking her reading from her new book at its drop. As Tár says, "And in this way, holy and unknowable, these joyful noises we make being the closest thing any of us might ever experience to the divine, yet something born by the mere act of moving air," we are shown an individual texting with someone who's asked, "How's she doing", to which they reply, "trotted out divinity bit". It's not Olga, the cellist, who Tár has brought along on this trip to New York, Tár still having hopes of a relationship with the girl (which will be dashed). Though Olga is continually texting she stands at the back of the room enjoying herself with a young man. We don't know who writes this text from the seeming second row, but it may as well be Tár's conscience, if she has one.

Somehow, despite the fact we never glimpse any students filming at the no-electronics event, a trumped up video of Tár's debacle at Julliard is put together which doesn't portray the lecture as it was but edits it to be even more damning. Why the video is hacked up is curious as it needn't have been. Tár 's behavior was inappropriate enough. All this episode does is confuse the issues a little, giving an in for someone to decry the abuses of "cancel culture", but it is the only example of this. It may be that Todd's intention, even as Tár brands all the other accusations as lies, having pretended she could barely even remember Krista, is to toss one minor weight in the balance on Tár's side of the scales in order to show that the proverbial baby shouldn't be thrown out with the bath water. And it's made clear in the film that if the only accusation had been that video there would have been no problem.

Is it cancel culture that Tár, as the accusations of sexual impropriety come in and evidence adds up against her, is moved from the public eye and associated institutions begin to break ties with her? No. Before the shit hits the fan, testing the waters, Tár had asked Andris, the conductor whose place she had taken, if he'd ever had a person that may have "misinterpreted" his intention, the subject being raised after telling him that she wouldn't be moving Francesca into the assistant conductor spot. [Note: It's been pointed out to me that she doesn't verbally respond, which is more precise.*] Andris' immediate response shows that he has worried about the possibility he might one day find himself accused, but that the time for that is over as he's out of the game. The pair ponder the fates of a couple of conductors whose stars had been felled and discredit the process, agreeing that "nowadays, to be accused is the same as being guilty". (But the two conductors they have discussed were only determined to be guilty of sexual impropriety after the accusations here investigated.) When Andris draws a parallel with de-Nazification, Tár objects that sexual impropriety is not the same thing as being a Nazi.

Krista was the daughter of someone at Citibank, one of their donors. Perhaps that is where Tár made her most strategical error in hubris. Even before Krista's suicide, her father was approaching Kaplan with questions concerning what was happening with her. This was a popular youth conductor who also came from an interested family of power, factors that could make Krista matter rather than be forgotten about. Is it abuse of their own power when protestors against Tár's event in New York show up with placards demanding justice for Krista? No. Nor is it cancel culture. It's a demand for justice that only looks harassing and bothersome from Tár's point-of-view, and it is Tár's point-of-view with which the film is concerned, while also representing in Krista all those before her who have gone without justice, who one will never hear about. That is perhaps another reason her face is never shown.

However, it's obvious that the director cares about Tár. Despite her callously ruining the lives of others, he is deeply concerned with her story, her motivations, her excuses, while not approving them. The opening texted dialogue could be about him. Does he believe Tár is haunted, that she has a conscience. If he believes she has a conscience is it because of his love for the character, which others have also experienced. Francesca certainly loved Tár .

What made Tár so vindictive with Krista, so as to attempt to erase her? Is it Krista who haunts Tár or is it the girl Tár once was who is also represented in Krista, another reason we are possibly never shown her face. Probably both. Though Tár is the monster who at the film's end conducts the orchestra that plays for a convention of devotees of the video game, "Monster Hunter", the victim that is Krista becomes a tormenting monster in her dreams.

The film begins with Tár in the Amazon, the global south, recording the song of an ayahuasca healer. The latter part has her returned to the global south, in the Philippines, divorced from her usual luxuries in this turn as a guest conductor, living in what she would consider third-world circumstances. It is a dramatic revelation to the audience when she's on the podium, the video screens are lowered, the music begins and the camera pans over the audience to reveal monster hunters in costume. It's taken to be the ultimate degradation for Tár that she is conducting what she would consider trash, but Tár isn't the movie audience. She knew why she was there and what she was doing. We were shown her meeting at CAMI (preceded by a glimpse of a "We Belong Here" poster advocating, in this instance, for the AAPI community) and that they had a plan for a reset, a new story for her. What does this mean as she stands before the monster hunters, conducting an orchestra in which one of the male players nervously jitters his leg as had the BIPOC individual she'd scorned at Julliard?

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The Purge

Now to return to the beginning, which is also the end, with the credits playing over an ayahuasca healer singing an ayahuasca song that is traditionally perceived as having been transmitted to her by the plant and the ancestors. Tár is presented as having studied the songs of ayahuasca healers and this too is given a feeling of current reality with a practicing healer, Elisa Vargas Fernandez, being the one recorded. Her Shipibo name is Reshin Wesna. Her bio states that "she has a different way of sensing and visualizing that which is intangible, scenes from other dimensions of the sub world, which are only possible to see by going under in ayahuasca sessions".

FIrst let's put aside any idea that Tár has invaded a secret indigenous world in the study of and recording of its songs. Ayahuasca medicine has long been practiced outside the tribe, but in response to the growing popularity and the murder of an ayahuasca healer by a tourist, a union was founded and a Yarinacocha Declaration of Shipibo Healers drawn up. Ayahuasca, and the Icaro, the healing chants, were described as a cultural heritage and a denunciation was made of colonialist abuses against this heritage. This can be understood as not only protecting the practices of the healers, but protecting as well those who seek healing.

Tár, from the very beginning of the film, as she prepares for her interview, displays what some might consider tics, when I wonder if instead they are likely to be movements based on her time studying icaro. One website states that the Onanya "pull off" bad patterns, brushing and blowing them away, weaving "the intricate geometric patterns of the ikaros into the patients to reconfigure their energy field", and that the effect of ayahuasca gives healers that ability to see these geometric designs in the air. Healing transforms chaotic patters into the organized type seen in Shipibo textiles, bringing harmony.

As Pam Montgomery writes: “Everything in physical existence has a molecular structure that vibrates, and through this vibration a resonance can be heard. Pythagoras, the father of the musical scale, ‘recognized that music was an expression of harmonia, the divine principle that brings order to chaos and discord’.” (Plant Spirit Healing: A guide to working with plant consciousness)


A typical period of study is four years, which is about the time that Tár spent, so she may not just have been a musical observer or one who wanted healing. Whatever was the exact nature of her study, her "tics", the way she breathes and brushes at her body, are means of organizing energy and working with the designs that she sees.

Five years among the Shipibo. That's a long time. A considerable period surrounded by all her other accolades. She didn't just dip in and out. Every time she enters her apartment she lights candles and works with the smoke in a way that should make us consider her time spent in the Amazon. In that apartment she has an image of herself with a healer, smoke being wafted about her. It is a publicity shot, but it is one that also shows she was not just an objective observer but a participant.

We are shown these patterns manifesting in her life. The first instance is when Tár opens a gift and due her reaction we gather it must be from Krista as we have had a glimpse of her standing outside the hotel as Francesca entered with clothes for Tár, but the gift could easily be from Francesca as well, both having traveled in the Amazon with Tár. It's a book, Challenge, by Vita Sackville-West, co-written by her lover Violet Keppel and though it was not dedicated to Violet (as requested by Vita's husband) it is said to have had, in Romani, the dedication, "This book is yours, honoured witch. If you read it, you will find your tormented soul changed and free." In the book, Vita is represented by the character Julian, and Vita by Eve. At the end, Julian having to leave Eve's island home, she refusing to leave with him, as his boat sails away she follows it into the sea and dies by suicide, drowning.

On the title page of the book we see an ayahuasca pattern that has been hand drawn. Alarmed, Tár rips out the page, destroying it, and throws away the book as well.

In the interview, the intention of Mahler's 5th symphony, which opens with a funeral march, and his guiding intention had been discussed, Tár insisting that it could be discerned by a right understanding of the dedication to his wife Alma Schindler on the cover, and that otherwise it was a mystery. She said it originated from young love, though Francesco would later argue that Mahler had demanded Alma give up her own career in music.

The funeral march. Death. Krista has died. Tár's bio states that she went to the Amazon after the death of her father, and throughout rehearsals for the 5th, an upstairs neighbor of Lydia's is dying. Lydia is petrified by death.


Next we see an ayahuasca pattern it is on a metronome. Tár has been having trouble with possibly hearing things (such as a voice that anticipated her own when she was mocking an NPR ad, repeating it out loud), as well as being hyper-sensitive to sounds. She has woken up at night and improbably heard the ticking of the metronome sounding throughout their home. Locating the metronome inside a cupboard, she stops it, and seeing the design on its cover is again horrified. Tár has dreams, but we are shown this as if it is real life, and she even asks Petra about it. It is one of the question marks in the film, how could this have happened? Later we will remember this cupboard when Tár is woken twice by what turns out to be the refrigerator.

Much had been made in the interview with Gopnik on the function of the conductor, how some think of it as being only a metronome. Tar instructs that while one hand keeps time the other shapes the music, and she exulted that she starts the clock. But Tár didn't start the metronome.


The third time we see the design, it is on Petra's play table, made with toy clay. Hearing someone has invaded her office, Tár rushes into it expecting to find the perpetrator, but it is instead only ghostly Petra shrouded by the white gauze curtain. She was hiding because she had been told to put her things in order, but they were already in order. The conversation reminds us of how Shipibo healing concerns the putting in order chaos, creating a harmonious pattern.


The interview had brought up the concept of kavanah, which Wikipedia states "literally means 'intention' or 'sincere feeling, direction of the heart' whereas in Jewish mysticism it can concentrate on "the secret meanings of prayer letters and words". This concerns permutations, meditating on all that is contained within words through rearranging the letters, which we see Tár performing in respect of Krista's name, and deciding something is "at risk". They also talk in the interview about teshuvah, which means "to return" as through repentance over sins, though Tár speaks of it in respect of the ability to repair by effecting change, which she says is what Bernstein believed in, but she is fairly vague about it all.


After Francesca has quit, Tár storms her apartment and finds a "proof" copy of Tár on Tár and that Francesca has written on it her own permutation so that it is Rat on Rat. Francesca, as Tár's right hand, being so close to her, knows a good deal about how Tár's psyche works and has left this behind as a very obvious message.


Krista, as Tár's victim, becomes a ghost pursuing her in the film. How did the metronome find its way into the cupboard and start? What about the hand-written patterns and Petra's play clay? A reason Todd doesn't offer what's behind the mysterious happenings is because Tár doesn't herself know. It could be that Francesca, with a key and her familiarity with Tár's life, could be the culprit and is also the one who steals Tár's personal score of the 5th with all her notes. That's reasonable to conclude, though it doesn't answer all the mysteries, such as the loudness of the metronome, but we are given numerous scenes of Tár's sensitivity to sound. If we have difficulty imagining Francesca sneaking about Tár's home, we just need to reorder our perception of this woman who has been having to cope with Tár's abuses of others, whose universe has been ordered completely around Tár.

Still, Todd's presentation of the mysteries is such that we have layers that include the ghostly functioning of the universe as well as a window into Tár's mind. For instance, there is what happens when we first see Tár's apartment.


Todd balances the simplicity of the coat room with a view of the piano room and Tár, or an apparition of Krista, standing before the window, her form echoing the coats. Between these rooms hangs the image of Tár with the healer, looking over the space, connecting her to the past.


We are then shown both the ghostly figure and Tár at the same time, so we have no doubt that this "other" is there. It could be the weight of Krista on Tár's life, but we've seen how Krista has reddish hair, so it may very well be as a double of Tár. It could be that Krista represents a younger Tár who, in essence, "killed" herself, her youthful ideals, in exchange for power and fame and becoming the defender of the traditional Western musical canon.


The film constructs Tár so that she seems hyper-real, and then it goes about deconstructing her in ways that can seem surreal and improbable, such as when Tár attacks Eliot at the podium, then when she's sent to the Philippines in a "reset". After a good bit of reflection on Tár's time in the Amazon, and the healing function of the icaro with which the film begins, I think what we are seeing is the reality that Tár perceives/feels--however sometimes presented in a "surreal" fashion--the mysteries for which Tár has no answers, such as not knowing how the metronome ended up in the cupboard. A dividing line seems to be the episode in which Tár follows Olga into an abandoned building, seeking to return to her a toy bear she left in the car, but also acting as a predator. Tár's actions are simply her doing the good thing of returning the stuffed toy. But her heart has its own design, which she has been plotting, she pursuing Olga as she has others before her, including Krista. A mystery for us is how Tár calls to Olga, her voice echoing throughout the abandoned structure, yet somehow Olga doesn't hear and answer. This seems impossible as Olga had just entered. Tár hears a woman siren singing in a lower floor and follows. Instead of finding the originating voice, or Olga, a boundary line is created in the form of a growling dog at the far end of the hall, a beast that we are only briefly permitted to see, which feels more like a horror story monster. The animal keeps Tár from proceeding--as if she has reached the limit and can go no further, she has no choice but "to return".

So, she turns and runs and is, improbably, not followed by the dog. Was the animal real or symbolic? She falls down on the stairs, injuring herself, and tells others she was attacked. Todd handles the event so that we at first wonder what game it is that Olga might be playing, leading Lydia into this abandoned structure, not answering when she must have heard her. He then switches to the surreal quality of living myth with the animal intervening. That Olga doesn't buy Tár's story of being attacked, asking how/where this occurred, seems to suggest that Olga knows enough to challenge Tár, but then Lydia returns the toy bear to Olga, her face changes to one of pleasant surprise, and we may be convinced again that the young woman is entirely innocent, It seems to me that how Tár herself describes the incident, as versus what we saw (as versus what she saw) is how we are to understand it. I would never, in real life, say someone beat themselves up by falling down the stairs, but this is a film and we can look upon Tár's accident as symbolic in that it's the result of all that she has done that has brought her to this point. And now we have the teshuvah, the "return", a process that will strip her of everything that was part of this false world made of wrong aspirations, even if it means Sharon dissolving the family.

A part of an ayahuasca trip is the famous purging that happens, that is the result of the plant and is looked upon as part of the process of cleansing. We have to wonder, considering, where Tár's heart is during this "reset", and I think it's with the purge we are shown this is real reform, even if it sneaks up on her. In the Philippines, reminded of her loss of Petra, of all her losses, back down in the southern hemisphere, to try to fight her jet lag, not feeling well, she asks where she can get a massage. Tár goes to the address and for the first time in the Philippines she is shown in the kind of pristine environment to which she is accustomed, but it turns out to be a house of prostitution. She is shown to the "fishbowl", where women sit in a semi-circular arrangement reminding of a symphony orchestra before its conductor, and she's told to select a number. A girl wearing the number 5, sitting in approximately the same position of the cellist section, looks up at her. And the correspondance slams Tár, this part of the pattern falls into place, and she races down to the street and vomits. This is a part of the ayahuasca purge set into motion by the opening icaro. Yes, it seems almost all films have someone vomit at some point, but in this film it has to do with the purge.

Then we cycle back around to the film's beginning. At the end, we see Tár from behind as she walks to the stage, whereas before we'd watched her from the front as she prepared to enter the stage for the interview. Whereas before Francescas had been there to hand her beta blockers and water, this time Tár had begun to take the pills in the communal dressing area then seemingly opted against it. In the orchestra, as I've previously noted, is the man with the jittering nervous leg who reminds us of the young, aspiring BIPOC conductor at Julliard that Tár had ripped apart, and who should also remind of the AAPI version of the "We Belong Here" poster we'd seen just before Tár's CAMI meeting in New York.


Finally, the camera moves over the audience to show their faces, however, costumed, whereas before we had only seen them from the rear, with Krista's presumed head centered. They are the Monster Hunters, and among them appears to be a version of Olga's bear.



The movie has become no longer so much concerned with the story of Tár, which is an odd place for a film to slide into when, with a few god's eye exceptions, we have approached everything from her point of view. Or it's not as concerned with her in the same way. Even the manner of filming her changes, of editing her story, how we are shown her. Todd has chosen to distance us after having gotten to a place of intimacy which most directors would have turned into a confessional. After everything came crashing down on her, and her upstairs neighbor had died, those who want to sell the apartment of the deceased show up at Lydia's door to remark not with expected praise for the music they hear coming from it, but to schedule showings of the apartment around the "noise". In response, she pulls out an accordion and veritably screams at the building her rage over the prospect of being silenced and the unfairness that the daughter of the woman who died has been institutionalized. We feel that we may have been given some illumination as to why the name of Tár's foundation would have been Accordion, as well as for the first time been afforded a glimpse of the Lydia/Linda who may have once been--or a part of her.

It shouldn't slip by that Tár had criticized atonal music as only being noise.

A similar quality of rage compels her to attack Eliot when he guest conducts in her place, and though this is wildly unlikely to ever happen, please don't let's make that into a fantasy or dream portion of the film, because it is so extraordinary an event, let's let Tár have that legend-making moment of such a ferocity of anger that it will be impossible for her to claw her way back into her former footsteps.

A usual story arc would then have dug for more character answers concerning Tár, burrowing deeper into her and would perhaps try to extricate the person she was from what she'd become, ignoring how intertwined they are. But Todd has chosen not to give us a reflective, redemptive cause-consequence rationalization of Tár at film's end. She doesn't open her heart to say "why" or "sorry". Instead, he widens the scope so we aren't provided a conclusion to her story, the focus having been broadened so it is not about the few who manage to seize attention and approach semi-divine Great One status but the entire orchestra and an audience composed of the Monster Hunter's Fifth Flight (note the correspondance with Mahler's Fifth). Todd Field was "the pianist" in Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut, playing masked for the powerful elite, and I will go ahead and compare this final concert hall and its costumed players to the costume ball at Somerton, different in that the majority of the costumed players here are not masked, we see their faces. One is intended to be given the impression of power being equitable. And we should recollect one of the few instances we saw Petra playing, how she had wanted to give a conducting baton-pencil to each stuffed animal in her play orchestra (including bears) so that all would act as conductors, but Tár had objected that it wasn't a democracy.

*Thanks to Brian McInnis for sending along some notes on misspellings etc. I had some embarrassing errors. He also pointed out that Tár didn't respond verbally concerning Francesca and the assistant conductor's position.

March 2023. Approx 7200 words (including film dialogue) or 14/15 single-spaced pages.

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