Lydia Tar is a narcissist. This is evident right from the first scene of the film – where Tar discusses her views of music and herself with a journalist. She is a terrible person, but still a complex one. This is where the greatness of Tar lies.
Many, including myself, have googled if Lydia Tar is a real person after a viewing of the film – that is how realistic she seems due to the intelligence, nuance, and layers director Todd Field has imbued her with. Cate Blanchett adds another layer of imperfections to Tar, making her so incredibly visceral. There are times when you hate her (there were scenes where I wanted to punch her), yet you can sense the underlying humanity. You understand her, you empathise with her, and you walk away from the film haunted by the reality of it all.
Lydia Tar is also a dilemma, an enigma to herself. One wonders if her self-destructive brutality, that manifests itself in the form of her abusive behaviour and transactional relationships, is privy to even her own self. It is almost like Tar has different identities within her, all unaware of and in conflict with each other.
Tar is a horrifying masterpiece. Horrifying because of its actuality. Power corrupts everything, including the person who holds it. Tar is a study of how the power that comes with greatness, the power that we all covet, can be what makes us lose that greatness.
The film trusts the intelligence of the audience. It leans into its stillness and the wordiness of its dialogue. Tar demands you pay attention to its details so that you can fully unravel the psychological drama that lies at the heart of the film.
Throughout the film, Lydia Tar speaks about the need to separate the art from the artist, the need to surrender your ego to the music. Yet it is her own inability to do so that results in her downfall. She is lying to herself if she thinks people come to see her music and not her.
The film asks important questions about our ego and the power systems we exist within. Ultimately, Tar is an uncomfortable and difficult film to sit through, yet I couldn’t recommend it more.