No, this is not a biopic of a world-famous conductor you somehow never heard of. But it is an age-old story of a person in power, crumbling away at the height of their success by their own doing. Filmmaker Todd Field’s Tár is an emotional and psychological portrait of a fictional, internationally renowned conductor/composer of Bernstein-ian proportions, Lydia Tár, played by Cate Blanchett.

The film is steeped in the real world of classical music. Lydia Tár herself rose up the ranks to become the chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic through her debuts with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the Boston Symphony to name a few. She is about to start her tenure with the New York Philharmonic in the film. She is also in the midst of completing her cycle of recording all of Mahler’s symphonies, in which the live recording of the fifth sets the backdrop for her personal demise.

Sophie Kauer
Sophie Kauer, cellist

Not to sway the audience from the authenticity of Lydia Tár’s world, the music making is genuine, with British cellist Sophie Kauer making her silver screen debut as Olga Metkina, a cellist who records the Elgar Cello Concerto with the London Symphony Orchestra in the film. The Dresden Philharmonic is also shown performing Mahler as Tár’s Berlin Philharmonic.

The film score is by a female Icelandic composer, Hildur Guðnadóttir. She has already won an Oscar for her score to Joker in 2019. Guðnadóttir is releasing her score to Tár with DG (what Tár calls Deutsche Grammophon in the film), a record label which produced many of your favorite recordings. Also on the album is a rehearsal recording of the Dresden Philharmonic performing Mahler’s Symphony No. 5, at the baton of Cate Blanchett, or shall we say Lydia Tár.

Tar DG album cover
Deutsche Grammophon

Critics agree this is not a character assassination of a ruthless conductor, making her way to the top through her need to control, pathological lying, and selfish ambitions. It is also not a snobby-nosed film intended for knowing nods of those deep in the world of classical music. Rather, it opens up the viewer to dwell on the question of corruption, power, and what true art means at what costs.

The film will have a limited release on October 7 before a wide-release on October 28.

For DC locals, you can watch this film at AFI Silver, starting on October 21. Or check for theaters and showtimes near you here.

For a chance to win a pair of tickets to the private advanced screening at AFI Silver Theatre on October 11 at 7PM, check out our social media posts below!

Want a better understanding of what a conductor does before seeing this film? Check out our episode all about this topic on Classical Breakdown!

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