A Prodigal Tale: “Tár” and the Need to Be Remembered
Via Benji Musick
Since my tender age, I have been fascinated with how others present themselves. It is often embarrassing when asked to describe yourself in a few words; qualities, shortcomings, etc. We may lack the words or want to avoid sounding pretentious. Nonetheless, we get used to the peering eyes when uttering simple words that can seem terrifying. Even when subjected to this fear of introductions or of anything requiring self-presentations, making an impressive first introduction is essential. For some, first impressions can determine their upcoming dynamics with the people they meet and even their future in certain environments. For others, it is an inoffensive, short-lasting interaction. The notion of “first impression” is found everywhere: when interviewing for jobs, introducing work you produced, like at school, or meeting new people. In this sense, we present ourselves hoping to be remembered or recognized for something. The slightest detail, such as your name on a piece of paper, can be a non-verbal hint of one’s character. Not so long ago, I would have argued that there is no proper way to introduce oneself; the right method is in the hands of the introduced. However, a recent experience with a movie changed my mind.
It was a Thursday night; I felt uninspired and slightly sleep-deprived but craving art of any form. After using the library services’ database to watch the movie Psycho for a class, I looked around the website. I came across the title of a recent release. I was not confident that the film would interest me; nonetheless, I immediately clicked on “watch” after reading the description. The movie starts with an ominous ambience and a person holding a phone meticulously recording a woman's life without her knowing. Viewers would later learn the woman filmed was Lydia Tár, the protagonist.
As the film progressed, I better understood the plot behind this well-crafted success story. I was mesmerised by an artist’s love for their art and their complete submission to the feeling their art produces. I was in awe at something intangible such as Lydia Tár's talent. Strained by the movie’s psychological acuity, the vividly depicted gruesomeness was nearly unbearable at times. Lydia Tár, with her neatness and fixation on control, made me question the role of success in being remembered and how this pursuit can lead to madness and a complete loss of rationality. [c]For Lydia, the costs of that obsession were high. However, viewers can still ponder existentialism in her work: the philosophy of meaning and purpose of one’s life.
If success defines being remembered, as depicted in Tàr, then is it worth it? Although Lydia almost achieves her dream, she is left with only her music and craft, to the detriment of losing her career, family, status, and privilege. She produced outstanding work, which ultimately went down the drain due to her questionable actions, as you may find out if you watch the movie.
I’ve read numerous reviews of Tár, applauding Cate Blanchett’s bravado and total mastery of her character. The New York Times concluded that Blanchett’s character fuels the debate surrounding the “[separation of] the art from the artist” and whether specific actions made by artists should be tolerated or encouraged by appreciating their art. It is relevant to highlight her legacy as a fictive character. Lydia Tár cannot simply be recognized for her extensive resume. Whether good or bad, moral or immoral, she was remembered for all her glorious and despicable moments. Yes, she was impressive, but her work and dedication to classical music left people astonished. Todd Field focused on her fall from grace rather than her rise to success to highlight her contributions to classical music. She was so creative that she pushed the boundaries of music and questioned the intentions of past famous musicians. Her contributions are vital because they allow for a critical analysis of the classical genre and more inclusivity for women in this male industry.
A part of me wishes to be remembered for my contributions to the world. Not to sound overly ambitious, but the idea of not accomplishing anything is scary. After watching Tár, I realised that being remembered is not something we should necessarily strive for. This conclusion becomes inevitable when the lives of people like Lydia Tár are glorified. She wanted to be acknowledged as an artist of near or even equal rank to those of legendary composers such as Beethoven, Edward Elgar, and many others: Tár most certainly had high aspirations.
Tár, directed by Todd Field, is the thrilling story of Lydia Tár, famous for being the first woman to fill the prestigious position of chief conductor of the Berlin Orchestra. Instead of focusing on her rise to success, the movie follows her downfall and tumultuous last moments as she prepares for her final epic performance. Viewers are constantly caught off guard by the genius of the camera’s audacious placements and by the unsettling details, reflections of Tár’s tortuous psyche. Whether viewers are adept at classical music or not, and with the soulful music and heartfelt interpretations of actors, this film has everyone at the edge of their seats until the very last minute.