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What is Tár about?
Tár is essentially a retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s famous short story The Tell-Tale Heart. Heart is famous for how it dramatizes the main character’s sense of guilt through hearing the beating heart of someone they buried beneath the floorboards. It’s a purely subjective experience that drives the protagonist mad as they sit for an interview with the police who hear nothing. The tension becomes too much to bear and the criminal admits their crime.
Todd Field takes a minimalist approach compared to the melodrama of Poe. Lydia’s guilt over her role in Krista’s suicide is explored in brief moments that can feel lost in the sheer size and breadth of Tár’s story. The metronome that activates in the night. The ghostly figure hiding in the background of a scene. Screams heard in an empty park. Growling. Dreams and nightmares. The surreal and subjective aspects are fractures in the reality of an otherwise very grounded story.
Adding to this meditation on guilt is the frame of the #MeToo movement. In Poe’s story, the crime is unbound to any contemporary happenings so feels very timeless. But Tár is absolutely contemporaneous to 2022 and the developing conversation around power dynamics, abuse of power, accountability, the separation of art and artist, and even the creation of the artistic persona. Tár asks a lot of vital questions, especially when returning to the scene between Lydia and Max and the bias of Lydia’s defense of Bach. It probably asks more questions than it answers, which will be fine for some viewers, disappointing for others.
Movie Guide table of contents
- Lydia Tár/Linda Tarr – Cate Blanchett
- Sharon Goodnow – Nina Hoss
- Petra – Mila Bogojevic
- Francesca Lentini – Noémie Merlant
- Eliot Kaplan – Mark Strong
- Olga Metkina – Sophie Kauer
- Andris Davis – Julian Glover
- Sebastian Brix – Allan Corduner
- Adam Gopnik – Adam Gopnik
- Written by – Todd Field
- Directed by – Todd Field
The ending of Tár explained
The ending of Tár begins with Lydia’s retreat to her childhood home in Staten Island. There, she descends into nostalgia. Herchildhood room is as it was. Full of medals, awards, diplomas, and music memorabilia. Her brother returns home and reveals that Lydia Tár was originally Linda Tarr. The brother says to her, “But you don’t seem to know where the hell you came from or where you’re going.”
After a cut, we see Lydia arrive at a hotel in the Philippines. She’s accepted a conducting job there. A bit of sightseeing involves travel on a river. Lydia asks about going for a swim, only to be informed by the guide that crocodiles live in the river, a byproduct of a Marlon Brando film. Lydia proposes “That was a long time ago” to which the guide answers, “They survive.”
Back at the hotel, Lydia asks about getting a massage. The address she’s given takes her to a brothel with a viewing gallery, called the fishbowl, where Lydia’s to select the girl she wants to massage her. All the girls look downward, except for number 5. Number 5 stares right at Lydia. Lydia flees the establishment, throwing up on the sidewalk.
We then see the last day’s preparations. Finally, Lydia takes the stage in front of the orchestra. She’s back in her element. Except this isn’t within the hallowed walls of a Berlin music hall and the performance of some ancient piece like Mahler’s 5th symphony. It’s the music of the Monster Hunter video game series. Video screens drop down. A narrator speaks, as if the audience were part of the game world. And the audience members, playing their part, are all cosplayers in elaborate outfits. Fantastic attire. Warriors. Steampunks. Unicorns. Other creatures.
Tár uses Lydia to make a larger point about powerful figures and power structures, especially in the midst of a cancel culture world. First, we see that Lydia Tár was originally Linda Tarr. Meaning that the woman we’ve spent over 2 hours watching, this woman who was hailed as legend, is actually a persona. An act. An idea. Lydia Tár does not exist. Linda Tarr is the reality. And Linda is far less special than Lydia. This is an act of demythologizing. You separate the public perception of someone from the reality of that person.
Stories involving a demythologization aren’t the norm but they are common. Almost Famous is an example, where a teenager, William, gets to go on tour with a band in the 1970s in order to write a story for Rolling Stone. It’s his favorite band. But the more time William spends with them, the less impressed he is, until, finally, he’s completely disillusioned. A lot of bio pics are forms of demythologizing. In 2022’s Elvis, we see the behind the scenes struggles of the King of Rock ‘n Roll that the public did not. They got the myth. The persona. But we bear witness to the man himself.
What elevates Tár is that Lydia can be seen as a symbol representative of other established figures and the establishments they represent. For 99% of Tár, Lydia is the head of the Berlin Philharmonic, arguably the most important orchestra in the world. She’s performing canonical works for mostly wealthy people. There is mention of the contemporary work she’s commissioned from newer figures like Jennifer Higdon and Caroline Shaw. But Higdon is 60 years old. Shaw is 40. These aren’t young people. If they’re not of Lydia’s generation, they’re of her era and in-line with the traditions of the industry.
But throughout Tár, we’re shown hints of a changing tide. The first example of this is the classroom scene where Lydia tries to talk to her student, Max, about Bach. Max says he doesn’t listen to Bach because of Bach’s misogyny. Lydia hates this. She takes the position that the art is the art and should be separate from the artist. Max disagrees. The conversation takes such a negative turn that Max, feeling hurt, ends up calling Lydia a b**ch and leaving the room.
The next prominent example is the arrival of Olga, the young cellist. By the time Olga appears, viewers are already aware of Lydia’s penchant for seducing young performers. We just hadn’t seen it happen. We’re primed to think what happened with Krista and many others will happen again with Olga. Lydia is obviously flirting and posturing and attempting to woo Olga. But Olga doesn’t care. She’s completely unphased by Lydia’s fame. To the point of almost being bored by Lydia. Olga’s interested in other composers than Lydia and has different tastes and influences than the established canon Lydia’s so dedicated to.
Lastly, it’s the performance in the Philippines. Up to that point, all the music we’d heard had been famous works. Works that had been performed thousands of times over decades (if not centuries). Especially in Berlin. Except now we’re outside of Berlin and its legendary music hall. We’re in a place that doesn’t have a long or rich history with classical music. The Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra was founded in 1973, probably in Lydia’s lifetime. And the music she conducts there isn’t of the Western canon. It’s music from a video game. And the show itself involves video screens. And a narrator. It’s not just classical music. It’s a modern opera. But pay special attention to the intro to the performance:
Sisters and brothers of the Fifth Fleet, it’s time. I’ll keep my farewell brief. Never was much with words. Once you board this ship, there’s no turning back. The next ground your feet touch will be that of the New World. If any of you have lost your nerve, then step away now and let no one judge you.
This isn’t included just for fun. This dialogue is there for a reason. And that reason has to do with the line, “The next ground your feet touch will be that of the New World.” The idea of the new world is a place of promise and potential. A place that’s unburdened by the Old World. Where the new arrivals have the opportunity to shape society how they see fit. It’s the culmination of what Max and Olga had represented. The New World of the next generation. A generation that’s redefining traditions and norms and not so obsessive or in awe of the past.
This is why the movie cuts from Lydia on stage to the crowd. Everyone in the crowd is in costume. Dressed as if they were a character in Monster Hunter. Not like someone attending the Berlin Philharmonic. These are the adventurers ready for the New World. Not those clinging to the past. Even though Lydia was Tár’s main character, the movie isn’t about her. It’s about her downfall and what such a downfall represents. It’s about how the world is changing. That new generations and burgeoning cultures are transformative. And the people who cling to old power dynamics and power structures and tradition for the sake of tradition are likely to be left behind.
Which leaves us with the question. Is Lydia’s conducting this concert a sign of her willingness to voyage to the New World? She could have just stayed on Staten Island. Or fled elsewhere to live out the rest of her days in some quiet, upper class area outside the public eye. She could have continued to conduct traditional pieces in, say, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and just do what she’s always done but for much smaller audiences. Instead, she’s gone to this place totally outside of the bubble she had spent so many years in. And she’s conducting this niche concert.
It doesn’t seem like this is necessarily redemption. Like, “Look at her, being humble.” It feels like hanging on. Like survival rather than growth. The important thing isn’t whether Lydia is okay or not. Whether she’s learned her lesson or not. The important thing is that she’s no longer a person of consequence. Her influence is gone. She’s now a small part of something much larger. A crocodile that lingers in a vast river.
The themes and meaning of Tár
Public persona vs. private persona and the separation of the art from the artist
Tár’s titular character is considered a musical legend. She is beloved, respected, and lauded for her artistic contributions. This persona is on full display in the film’s opening conversation between Lydia Tár and Adam Gopnik. We see Lydia in full performance mode. Giving all the right answers. Living up to the idea of a generational composer.
Over the course of the film, we jump back and forth between Lydia’s public persona and her private persona. In the beginning, the private has little impact on the public. By the end, the private (her relationship with Krista and role in Krista’s death) has become public and the consequences are huge. She loses her position as head of the Berlin Orchestra. Her wife leaves her. Lydia’s a pariah. Professionally and personally.
This dynamic between public and private is something all public figures face. Whether someone is a politician, an artist, an athlete, a professor, or business executive. They cultivate what’s essentially a brand, live up to that brand, with very few actually knowing who they are in their normal lives. A lot of people are just that: people. With positives and negatives that are acceptable and understandable. While others hide true transgressions. For years, or decades, or their entire lifetime.
The dichotomy gave birth to the question of the ability to separate the art from the artist. A question Tár brings up in the conversation between Lydia and her student Max. Lydia wants to discuss Bach as a composer. Max says he doesn’t listen to Bach because of Bach’s reported misogyny. That view is something Lydia rips apart. She’s so unrelenting that Max eventually leaves the room, after calling Lydia a b**ch. Initially, it might seem like Lydia is the patient one in this encounter. The “mature” one. Except soon we find out that Lydia has been a predator. She has used her position to sleep with people under her. Then influenced their careers, for better or worse. In the case of Krista, we see emails that Lydia sent to dozens of orchestras, telling them not to bring Krista on. It was a professional annihilation that Lydia committed out of sheer pettiness. It was the reason Krista took her own life.
So was Lydia arguing with Max out of a true appreciation of art, regardless of the artist? Or because Lydia is aware of her own transgressions and doesn’t want to, one day, be judged and forgotten? If Bach could eventually be dismissed, couldn’t Lydia? Suddenly her position feels much more defensive and self-serving than pure. In the process of defending herself, Lydia has no problem throwing Max under the bus.
Overall, Tár is a reminder that these figures we idealize are simply people. Lydia Tár isn’t even her real name. It’s Linda Tarr. The difference between Lydia and Linda, Tár and Tarr, captures the core of the film’s themes and narrative.
Guilt and paranoia
Tár is a #MeToo story that captures in detail the fall from grace that has affected figures like Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, James Franco, and Louis CK. Their lives were privileged and full of opportunity and public affection. All while their transgressions stayed completely out of the mainstream. Until, finally, their private behavior became known. That resulted in the loss of privilege, opportunity, and affection.
The public becomes familiar with the story of what happened and when and the fallout. But not necessarily the emotional journey these figures go on. Tár is a hypothesis of what this must be like. Todd Field puts special emphasis on the way in which guilt and paranoia manifest in the egotistical, especially those in denial of how wrong and bad they’ve been.
Field has the story play out as a version of Edgar Allan Poe’s famous short story The Tale-Tell Heart in which police visit a man about a missing person. The police have no reason to suspect there’s a body beneath the floorboards. But the narrator keeps hearing a heartbeat. It’s a purely subjective thing, as the cops hear nothing. The paranoia becomes too much, though, and the narrator confesses that the missing person is buried directly under their feet.
In Tár, Lydia doesn’t hear the beating of Krista’a heart. But all these other little moments happen. The metronome activates in the night. Someone screams in the park. There’s the dog that follows her in the underground hallway. Not to mention the ghost of Krista that’s visible at multiple points. None of these moments are truly consequential or climactic. But each one is a turning of the screw that increases the pressure and stress Lydia feels. They’re this externalization of the guilt, paranoia, and fear that must be, on some level, affecting Lydia, and probably also affects people like Weinstein, Spacey, Franco, etc.
Changing times, the next generation
There’s something subtle and interesting with how Tár looks at time. Lydia is, at the time of the movie, an institution. A legend. She is recognized by other establishments and established people. Her post at the Berlin Philharmonic is about as classical as classic music gets. All of these established worlds and people cater to her. The only time she encounters real disobedience or disrespect is from those much younger than her.
In the classroom, Max disagrees with Lydia’s view on Bach and on the total separation of art and the artist. That culminates with him walking out of the classroom after calling Lydia a b**ch. Then Olga, the new, young, cello prodigy, is completely immune to Lydia’s seduction. A number of other young women had fallen prey to Lydia. Except Olga, like Max, isn’t as impressed by Lydia. To the point where Olga even casually gives advice to Lydia about Lydia’s new composition. Not only that, while in New York, Olga rejects spending time with Lydia, this tremendously famous composer, in order to hang out with a random girl.
There’s this implication that the next generation is already moving on from Lydia. That even if this scandal with Krista hadn’t come out, that Lydia was already past the apex of her influence and beginning her descent. It also feels meaningful that at the end, she doesn’t just do nothing. She ends up conducting in the Philippines, a country not typically associated with classical music. But it’s not just classical music. It’s the score to the Monster Hunter video game series. The crowd isn’t filled with rich people in gowns and suits. It’s young adults and teens in cosplay attire. We’re seeing this evolution in the genre. Of its audience and presence. In that way, classical music itself has started to leave Lydia behind. What she represents, the era and history and people, isn’t as important to the next generation.
Why is the movie called Tár?
Of course the main character of Tár is Lydia Tár. And the film is a portrait of Lydia and her reputation. The same way she and her student Max debate about Bach, people will, in this universe, discuss Tár. So using her last name as the title gives the name a bit of a monolithic quality that befits the grandeur of her character.
There’s another layer, though. Near the end of Tár, Lydia, disgraced, heads back to her childhood home in Staten Island. There, we find out Lydia Tár is actually Linda Tarr. And she comes from a very blue collar background. That means that Lydia Tár was nothing more than a persona. A redefinition. You could even say a false presentation. This revelation renders the name a bit empty.
That brings us back to the title. Since we know that Tár is a mask, a facade, an idea rather than a person, it brings a sense of hollowness to the title. This person is not who we thought they were. The movie takes pains to ground Lydia in the canon of genius. In that way, she transcends her individual stature and becomes representative of the idea of these heroic, transcendent figures that society lauds for what they do rather than who they are. It’s a reminder of the divide between public identity and private identity.
There are dozens of recent and classical examples, but the Ellen DeGeneres scandal is one example. Ellen had a legendary talk show that preached kindness as a guiding principle. She becomes a pop culture figurehead and viewed as this sweet, caring, wonderful person. This lasted for nearly 20 years. But in 2020, it came out she was distant and mean to her staff. Exploitive of guests. And created an on-set culture that was toxic. The fallout from the publicization of all this led to the end of Ellen and a complete loss of esteem for Ellen herself.
The details are different from what we see in Tár, yet it’s the same idea of reconciling public and private, artist and art, what someone accomplishes for the world and what they do in their personal life. Can we accept one and denounce the other? Or is it all or nothing? Is “Lydia” the exception? Or the rule?
Important motifs in Tár
The surreal and supernatural
Tár begins with the shot of a phone that’s live streaming Lydia sleeping on a plane. The text on the phone:
- Commenter: what time did she get up this am
- Person With Phone: i wasnt with her s was
- C: our girls an early riser isnt she
- P: haunted
- C: ha you mean she has a conscience
- P: maybe
- C: you still love her then
The person with the phone is implied to be Krista, Lydia’s young mistress. Who Lydia’s talking to isn’t explored. It could be Francesca, the assistant, which would explain the use of “our girl”. The reference to “s” being with Lydia is Sharon, Lydia’s wife. (It should be noted that it could be Francesca streaming and Krista commenting. But the perspective shots happen prior to Krista’s passing and never happen after, while Francesca is still alive).
There are two important things here and they reinforce one another. First, it’s the spying on Lydia while she sleeps. The voyeuristic nature of the shot. Second, is the use of the word “haunted”. The idea of someone being haunted means they’re being followed by a thing or a feeling. The presence is there, whether “there” is in the room or in the mind. The commenter says “you mean she has a conscience” because it’s the most realistic application of the concept of haunting. The idea of a physical haunting is just that—an idea. Something for literature and film. Or a poetic description of someone’s presence, like “The guy haunts the gym, he’s there every day.”
So much happens in Tár that the early text message conversation is easy to forget. Eventually, after Krista’s s**cide, the idea of Lydia being haunted takes a turn to the literal. The manifestations are quick and easy to overlook, but they add up. It’s the unseen woman screaming in the park. The activation of the metronome in the night. Mysterious buzzing sounds. The actual glimpses of ghostly Krista. Or the footfalls and growls of a dog in the basement of a seemingly abandoned apartment complex.
The reason for these things isn’t explicit but comes back to that initial phone conversation. They’re manifestations of Lydia’s conscience. The guilt she feels over Krista’s demise. Outwardly, she tries to ignore that Krista’s gone. But internally, she’s stricken. Todd Field makes the choice to externalize her haunting sense of guilt through surreal moments of haunting. In that way, Tár has a similar concept to Edgar Allan Poe’s famous short story The Tell-Tale Heart.
Shoulder pain and crocodiles
Two seemingly disconnected things actually have the same meaning. That’s Lydia’s shoulder pain after her fall and the crocodiles mentioned when she’s in the Philippines. How are they similar?
This is the conversation around Lydia’s shoulder pain:
- Doctor: You’ve damaged some nerves. The burning sensation you’re feeling is called notalgia paresthetica.
- Lydia: Nostalgia?
- D: Notalgia. No S.
- L: Well how do we treat it?
- D: We don’t. Eventually, it goes away.
Now keep that in mind for the conversation about the crocodiles.
- Lydia: Maybe we could stop somewhere and take a swim.
- Guide: Yeah, at the waterfall. But not in the river.
- L: Why? Is there something wrong with the water?
- G: No. There are crocodiles.
- L: Oh. I didn’t think they’d be this far inland.
- G: They escaped from Marlon Brando movie.
- L: Wow. That was a long time ago.
- G: They survive.
So you have this instance of shoulder pain that becomes accidentally associated with nostalgia, which is a longing for or reflection on the past. And there’s no way to treat it. You just have to wait for it to go away. Then another instance of crocodiles that have persisted in a river for far longer than you’d expect. The Brando movie in question is Apocalypse Now, which was filmed between 1976 and 1977. Meaning the crocodiles have been there for 46 years.
Lydia’s main issue in Tár is the fallout of her tryst with Krista. Lydia’s haunted by Krista’s death, both figuratively and literally. The memory of Krista is soaked with nostalgia and trauma. It’s a memory with teeth. Who knows how long it will hurt? All you can do is wait and see if the pain eventually goes away.
As random as the shoulder pain and crocodiles are, they’re simply other externalizations of Lydia’s internal state.
There are two major speeches about music. One at the beginning and one near the end.
At the end, Lydia’s back home on Staten Island, and she watches a video of Leonard Bernstein. Bernstein, following a performance, speaks to the audience. He says:
Didn’t you feel triumphant? Now we can really understand what the meaning of music is. It’s the way it makes you feel when you hear it. Finally, we’ve taken that last giant step. And we’re there. We know what music means now. And we don’t have to know a lot of stuff about sharps and flats and chords and all that business in order to understand music, if it tells us something. And the most wonderful thing of all is that there’s no limit to the different kinds of feelings music can make you have. And some of those feelings are so special and so deep that they can’t even be described in words. You see, we can’t always name the things we feel. Sometimes we can. We can say we feel joy, pleasure, peacefulness, whatever. Love. Hate. But, every once in a while, we have feelings that are so deep and so special that we have no words for them. And that’s where music is so marvelous. Because music names them for us, only in notes, instead of in words. It’s all in the way music moves. You must never forget that music is movement, always going somewhere, shifting and changing and flowing from one note to another. And that movement can tell us more about the way we feel than a million words can. And here we’re going to play you a—
Now let’s jump back to the beginning, during the New Yorker interview with Adam Gopnik. Gopnik asks Lydia about the process of discovery regarding her upcoming performance of Mahler’s Fifth. This is Lydia’s answer:
We start on Monday. With this one, it really is about trying to read the tea leaves of Mahler’s intention. I mean, we know a great deal about this with his other symphonies. You know, he was so inspired by the poetry of Rücket that for years he didn’t set another author to music. But all of this changes with the Five. The Five is a mystery. And the only clue he leaves us is on the cover of the manuscript itself. Yes, the dedication to his new wife, Alma. So if you’re gonna partner with Mahler on his fifth symphony, the first thing you must do is try to understand that very complex marriage.
Gopnik: And would you say you have a different interpretation of that marriage than Bernstein did?
Lydia: You mentioned my ethnographic fieldwork in the Amazon. Well, Adam, the Shipibo-Konibo only receive an icaro, or song, if the singer is there, right? On the same side of the spirit that created it. And in that way, the past and present converge. It’s the flip sides of the same cosmic coin. That definition of fidelity makes sense to me. But Lenny, he believed in teshuvah. The Talmudic power to reach back into time and to transform the significance of one’s past deeds. So when he played the Adagietto at Robert Kennedy’s funeral, it ran for 12 minutes. He treated it as a mass. And, you know, if you listen to a recording of it, you will no doubt feel the tragedy and the pathos. And, of course, that interpretation was very true for Mahler later in life, after the professional bottom dropped out and Alma had left him for Gropius. But, as I said before, we are dealing with time. And this piece was not born into aching tragedy. It was born into young love.
Bernstein talks about music being an expression of emotions. With that in mind, it makes sense why he would turn the Adagietto at Robert Kennedy’s funeral into a mass. He was using the notes to convey the depth of his feelings. It wasn’t about transforming one’s past deeds. It was about expressing what’s in your heart, right then and there. It seems that’s something that Lydia forgot. Rather than express herself through music, she’s become obsessed with time and her control over time. That means music, for her, is about control. Specifically the power she has over time and the orchestra and the audience.
Lydia mentions that her right arm is the arm that marks time, that starts it and stops it. It’s that same arm that’s injured, later in the movie, after her fall. The arm stricken with notalgia paresthetica. Or “nostalgia”. This injury coincides with the greater loss of control she suffers in her life as the details of her relationship with Krista come out and the fallout begins. Which is why she runs back to Staten Island. Runs back to Lenny. And is reminded that music was never about time and control. Rather, it’s about emotion and movement.
Questions & answers about Tár
What does Tár say about “feminism”?
Feminism has a major focus in Tár. This is introduced during Lydia’s conversation with Adam Gopnik, she talks about gender bias in classical music but says she has nothing to complain about. It’s a fascinating moment because Lydia pays respect to female conductors who came before her and cites specific names and history and sounds very impressive. But tucked in this speech is an outright dismissal of gender bias. She’s essentially saying, “It existed before. But not now.” A stance that’s made more explicit when she says times have changed then references a “Pauline-conversion”. Paul the Apostle had been a non-Christian who loathed Christians. But an encounter on the road to Damascus with God caused Paul to convert to Christianity. He transitions from sinner to an all-in believer. To compare the current state of gender bias in classical music to that is an intense and unrealistic idealization.
While a lot of progress has been made against gender bias, the idea that the classical music industry has had this miraculous purification and bias is a bygone thing—that’s crazy. The issue is that Lydia herself is biased because she’s extremely guilty of favoring young women. Look what happened with Krista. Lydia chose her. Elevated her. Then annihilated Krista’s career after ending their relationship. Then Olga comes around and Lydia begins the same routine. First, it’s a casual lunch. Then arranging things so that Olga gets a solo. Then a trip to New York City. Lydia wants to dismiss gender bias because she’s guilty of applying gender biases. It’s the same reason she shames Max for caring about Bach’s personal transgressions. By defending Bach, Lydia’s defending herself.
In the conversation with Olga at their first lunch, Lydia tries to impress Olga by saying Beethoven and Napoleon ate in the restaurant. To which Olga responds, “Yes, and Clara Zetkin.” Lydia’s response? “Who’s that? It’s a musician?” “No. She helped found Social Democratic women’s movement in Germany…” It’s not a coincidence that Lydia names historically important men and Olga a woman. And it’s not a coincidence Lydia hasn’t heard of Clara Zetkin. It shows how much more progressive and truly feminist Olga, a representative of the youth, is over Lydia, a representative of the old guard. This dovetails with Tár’s overall message about shifting power dynamics between previous generations and the next.
What does the ending of Tár mean?
In short, the end of Tár captures the idea of the cultural shift that’s happening from one generation to the next. Lydia has to become part of the New World or be left behind entirely. And the New World is one that’s far more progressive than anything Lydia has known.
Was Lydia Tár a real conductor? Is she based on a real person?
Absolutely not. But, she is representative of many of the established names in entertainment who abused their power and suffered very little consequences for it until the recent Me Too movement. Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K., Kevin Spacey, etc.
Who is Krista Taylor?
Krista was a young, promising conductor who was rising in the industry. At some point, Lydia decided to pursue Krista and the two began a relationship under the guise of mentoring. At some point, around the beginning of the film, Lydia became upset with Krista and cut off all contact. Not only did Lydia cut off contact, she emailed over a dozen orchestras and told them not to hire Krista. Krista was crushed by the sudden ghosting by Lydia and the annihilation of her career. In the aftermath of her death, Krista’s parents eventually pursue legal action against Lydia.
Why did Lydia break up with Krista?
The details aren’t super apparent. All Lydia cites was Krista making demands and editing Lydia’s Wikipedia page. We don’t know what the demands were.
Who is singing during the opening credits?
At one point, Francesca mentions a trip she, Krista, and Lydia took to Ucayali (a region in Peru). It’s likely the opening credits are a reference to this trip. Lydia’s there, directing a singer, Elisa Vargas Fernandez, of the Shipibo-Conibo people, a group we know she’s studied and worked closely with. We hear the sounds of nature and people that give the sense of being in a village. On the soundtrack the song is called “Cura Mente”. It translates to “cure mind”.
That would explain the very first scene being Lydia asleep on a plane. It’s them heading to Peru. The credits is the recording in Peru. Then we jump ahead to early November and the New Yorker talk. At this point, Lydia’s already broken up with Krista and ruined Krista’s career.
What was the book Krista gave Lydia?
The book is Challenge by Vita Sackville-West. In an article for Collider, Martin Millman explains: The story was inspired by Vita Sackville-West’s tumultuous love affair with Violet Trefusis. The dedication page in Romany dialect translates: “This book is yours, my witch. Read it and you will find your tormented soul, changed and free,” followed by more kené designs drawn by Krista.
The kené design translates to “at risk”, a warning that Krista soon follows through on. This sets up the Tell-Tale Heart aspect of Krista haunting Lydia.
Is Tár a scary movie or a horror movie?
Kind of? It’s psychological horror, in a way, as there’s a very subjective ghost story going on where Lydia is “literally” haunted by Krista’s ghost. Twice, Krista’s ghost appears on screen. This doesn’t imply a real ghost so much as suggests there’s a subjectivity to the film and the ghost is an externalization of Lydia’s tormented psyche.
If Hereditary was a horror movie with the minimalism turned up to 7, then Tár is a horror movie with the minimalism knocked to 11. It’s subtle but it’s there. Especially since the film is essentially just a high brow retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart.
Now it’s your turn
Have more unanswered questions about Tár? Are there themes or motifs we missed? Is there more to explain about the ending? Please post your questions and thoughts in the comments section! We’ll do our best to address every one of them. If we like what you have to say, you could become part of our movie guide!