TÁR may be a 158-minute movie, but it starts rolling its credits at the beginning of the film. Not the usual type of opening credits, listing the names of movie stars and the director. Rather, TÁR begins with what movie industry folks call “below-the-line” credits, showing the names of orchestra musicians and the various studio personnel. Most movies would save these credits for the end of the film, but TÁR begins by listing every musician and laborer’s name, glowing white text on a black background.
More than a mere throwback to the once-common Hollywood movie practice of beginning with credits and closing the movie with a simple “The End” title card, TÁR’s structure underscores its theme about the importance of the “little people.” It might be easy to forget that theme midway through the movie when Cate Blanchett’s towering performance — as the brilliant and self-destructive composer Lydia Tár — engulfs the audience. But by placing the credits at the start of the film, TÁR insists that oft-ignored people matter — even if Lydia pretends that they do not.
Written and directed by Todd Field, his first new movie since 2006’s Little Children, TÁR follows Lydia’s attempt to record an interpretation of Gustav Mahler’s “Symphony No. 5,” but when evidence of Lydia’s abusive practices is exposed, her downfall begins. Blanchett appears in nearly every scene, and while we do get some sense of the way others feel, including her wife Sharon (Nina Hoss) and her long-suffering apprentice Francesca (Noémie Merlant), TÁR largely concerns itself with the title character’s perspective.