Deconstructing a Maestro


Director: Todd Field

Cast: Cate Blanchett, Nina Hoss, Julian Glover, Mark Strong, Noemie Merlant, Sophie Kauer

Running Time: 2 hours and 38 minutes

Film Rating: 9.5 out of 10

This film is in German and English

Director Todd Field came out of seclusion after making two excellent films in the early 2000’s In The Bedroom and Little Children, to make his masterpiece, a brilliant and vicious social commentary about celebrity, cancel culture and power dynamics in his new film Tar.

Tar premiered at the 2022 Venice International Film Festival to much critical acclaim with the lead actress, Cate Blanchett taking the prize for Best actress. Since its illustrious reception, Blanchett has received awards and praise for her brittle and beautiful performance of legendary yet fictional musical conductor Lydia Tar who heads up the prestigious Berlin Symphony Orchestra.

Field sets his masterpiece in New York and Berlin and opens the film by building Lydia Tar up to be a master conductor defying convention by being one of the first female conductors in the contemporary orchestral music world.

In the opening scene, Tar is being interviewed by a reporter from the New Yorker magazine at a public event. Tar is praised and glorified. In New York at the Julliard school of music Tar tries to lecture on what it means to be a famous composer like Bach, Mahler or Elgar to a group of woke non-binary millennials who continue to challenge the pantheon of music conductors by questioning their relevance in the 2020’s. It’s a terrific scene, prophetic and scathing.

Tar, using private jets and personal assistants, is whisked off to Berlin to her resident orchestra and her plush apartment that she shares with her girlfriend and first violinist Sharon Goodnow wonderfully played by German actress Nina Hoss.

In Berlin everything seems perfect until Tar’s prestigious world and status starts unravelling. Tar takes risks, flirting with the new Russian soloist Olga Metkina played by Sophie Kauer while back in New York the unexplained suicide of Krista Taylor, an aspiring musician starts to haunt Tar and allegations are made. Allegations which are taken seriously by trust funds sponsoring major orchestras and corporate shareholders who demand answers from Lydia Tar who is the face of the orchestra, the arrogant leader which commands the symphonies.

In some really brilliant scenes with Tar and her mentor Andris Davis played by Julian Glover (For Your Eyes Only), Tar offloads some of the professional and personal pressures onto Andris who has survived Berlin in her complex political phases as the German capital city.

What Tar is really about, and certainly director Todd Field’s main critique is the Western world’s ability to build someone up as a celebrity through social media and hype, a demi-god only to tear them done again when their expectations are not met or when that celebrity’s actions contradict their dazzling talent.

At the centre of Tar, is a truly mesmerizing performance by Cate Blanchett who is literally in every single frame of the film. Blanchett is a master class in acting, from speaking German to internalizing all the frailties and trauma of her character’s rapid descent into anonymity and her rebirth into a bizarre more exotic culture somewhere in South East Asia, possibly Laos or Cambodia, a location so far removed from affluent Germany or politically conscious New York.

Tar is a tour de force in social commentary of our contemporary age, a director whose vision is astute and specific, knocking down all the gods of high culture and reconfiguring them into a future world, in which the maestro is sacrificed and reborn.

Tar is a complex film which demands complete attention from the viewer and gets a film rating of 9.5 out of 10, a truly insightful and superb cinematic revelation.

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