Tár! People can’t stop talking about Tár! The story of disgraced conductor Lydia Tár pushes the hot button issues of #MeToo and cancel culture, bringing up arguments nearly everyone watching the film has thought about and has developed opinions on. That’s one way to draw audience members into a movie and people online are no doubt debating Tár’s actions even now, coming down on her side or against her. I wound up empathizing quite a bit with Tár myself, because like her I have been bedeviled by slippery antagonists, forced into an uncomfortable, untenable position. We both hear things that go bump in the night.
My wife and I moved a little more than a year ago, and even now I am hearing new noises while I’m trying to go to sleep — things outside of the catalog of creaks and settlings the new resident learns to identify over weeks and months. What has been most unnerving are the various detectors tucked away in the basement, their batteries always deciding to start their dying chirps sometime after midnight, forcing a bleary, groping triangulation — I shuffle around, playing hot and cold while wondering if my sleepy torpor is actually carbon monoxide poisoning.
But there are subtler buzzes and murmurs as well — things like the hum that wakes Tár on multiple occasions to test the tone that comes from an open fridge door. Nothing so unexplained as her metronome set in ominous motion — a dream? — but Tár’s cautious walks through an apartment dark with uncertainty felt very familiar.
As luck would have it, the night we got back from seeing Tár a new noise revealed itself — a high-pitched tapping, not quite a beeping but not able to be dismissed, the sound returning in regular intervals. It turned out to be a loose heating grate; my sounds are ultimately solved so I have one up on Tár. The noises that drive Tár from sleep have more metaphorical resonance*, but they’re also just shit keeping her from a good night’s rest and boy can I feel that. Does that make me more inclined to relate to Tár, a prickly, pigheaded, malicious and abusive person? Was it intended to?
I’m guessing no to the second question, but the first is a query Tár herself might appreciate, as it reckons with art on an emotional level that may conveniently ignore ugly truths. But it also ignores, or disregards, other things the artist may desire the audience to respond to and creates an unexpected frisson neither artist or audience expected. People overlap with art in unpredictable ways. Tár the movie wants us to think, in part, about Tár the artist resisting the demands of the woke — I just hope she gets some sleep.
What moments or characters have you unexpectedly identified with?
*Beloved Soluter Pico has noted how Tár’s troubles are similar to those of Tilda Swinton in this year’s Memoria; Swinton is beset by a mysterious crumpling explosion that comes in odd, unconnected moments and is revealed to have its own significance.