In Tár, Cate Blanchett plays a renowned composer whose carefully crafted persona is destroyed through a series of choices she makes both during and before the events of the film. The movie feels like a biopic; it opens with an interview listing all of Tár’s achievements and portrays celebrity and fame in a way that feels all too familiar to an audience that grew up in a world obsessed with tabloids and social media. When Tár ambushes a composer on stage, we expect the YouTube video to be just a Google search away.
Given the realistic environment of the film, viewers have been leaving the theater curious to know more about the titular character. Many internet-savvy audience members might be wondering how they could miss what must have been a heavily-documented fall from grace; how could such a famous, world-renowned composer slip through the cracks like that?
Who is Lydia Tár?
It’s easy to not have your antics memorialized online when you’re not a real person.
Lydia Tár is a fictional composer but the movie does market itself as though it were based off a true story: the film description describes Tár as “widely considered one of the greatest living composer/conductors and first-ever female chief conductor of a major German orchestra.” Her accomplishments in the movie are cemented in reality as well; she was the music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, then the New York Philharmonic, and even an elusive EGOT winner. While she has the kind of celebrity a conductor-composer hasn’t seen since Leonard Bernstein (who was her mentor in the film, of course), it’s not unheard of for people to be highly celebrated in their niche but relatively unknown to the masses.
If you watched the movie and believed Tár was a real person, you’re not alone. Many viewers took to Twitter to discuss the film and how they were bamboozled into thinking it was a real biopic about an actual composer. Watching Tár’s facade crumble is a dramatic spectacle, but the film does such a good job of placing her firmly in reality that it’s hard to not feel as if you’re watching a real woman’s life fall apart. Tár is power-hungry and corrupt in a way that feels reminiscent of other people in power (think #MeToo) that it’s not impossible to see her actions playing out in real life as they do in the film.
While Lydia Tár might not be real, there are definitely people in power like her. And while we want to see more women composer-conductors in the orchestral world, it’s probably better that the very corrupt Tár is not one of them.