Todd Field (USA, 1964) debuted with
In the Bedroom (2001), based on Andre Dubus's short story "Killings".
Little Children (2006) is an adaptation of Tom Perrotta's novel.
He returned after a long hiatus with Tar (2022), a diligent portrait
of an imaginary lesbian conductor. The film is slow and overlong, and at times
verbose, but the attention to detail is so impressive that at times it feels
like a live video recording.
Lydia Tar is a famous composer and conductors. She is being interviewed at
a music festival. She discusses Mahler's 5th Symphony, her next assignment,
which in her opinion requires understanding Mahler's love for Alma.
Later at a reception she is interviewed by a flirtatious journalist, Whitney.
Lydia has lunch with her friend Eliot, who manages Lydia's fellowship program
for aspiring female conductors. We learn that she doesn't like her assistant conductor Sebastian, whom she considers a weirdo.
She lectures aspiring conductors at a prestigious school and argues with a
shy student, Max, who hates Bach and Beethoven based on ideology.
Humiliated, the student leaves the room after insulting her.
We learn that she is a lesbian, married to Sharon, who also plays violin in her orchestra.
Lydia's secretary Francesca follows her everywhere.
On the way to the airport Francesca tells Lydia of a desperate email received from Krista.
She also delivers Lydia a bag of pills.
Someone left a gift for Lydia that Lydia opens on the plane: a copy Vita Sackville-West's novel "Challenge", with a dedication that Lydia tears up in anger:
it's from the same Krista.
Lydia arrives home in Germany where she finds Sharon in agony. Sharon is a sick woman.
Sharon is worried about their child Petra, who keeps coming home with bruises on her legs.
After taking Petra to school, Lydia threatens the little girl Johanna who has
being bullying Petra.
At a rehearsal we meet Sebastian, an older man who looks diligent and competent.
Over lunch she discusses the book that she is writing with an elderly composer, Andris, who was her mentor.
While jogging along the river, Lydia hears a child screaming but can't find
where it's coming from.
At home someone rings the doorbell and runs away.
She wants to get rid of Sebastian and overrides objections from clarinet player Knut.
Francesca is in tears: Krista killed herself, and it turns out Krista was
also a close friend of hers.
Lydia coldly tells her that there's nothing they can have done and they have to forget about her.
We sense that Krista may have been a lover.
Alone, Lydia goes over emails that she sent to various people about Krista: we see that Lydia methodically destroyed Krista's career.
Later, Lydia asks Francesca to destroy all the correspondence with Krista.
Sharon talks to Lydia about the new Russian cellist, Olga.
Lydia visits Sebastian and hints at a possible change of job.
Sebastian accuses Lydia of wanting to replace him with Francesca in
exchange of sexual favors from her.
Lydia tells Sharon of the argument, and Sharon advises her to pick someone else
than Francesca but still get rid of Sebastian.
Lydia informs Francesca that Sebastian is leaving and implies that the replacement will not be her, Francesca, causing Francesca to almost cry.
She has now hurt the feelings of both Sebastian and Francesca.
Lydia meets Olga and is mesmerized.
She proposes to the orchestra to perform a cello concerto that is Olga's specialty besides Mahler's symphony. The orchestra likes the idea but then Lydia adds
the unorthodox idea that the cello soloist should not be the obvious one (the lead cellist of the orchestra) but someone else. The orchestra remains silent,
embarrassed, as is Sharon.
Andris sends a woman named Britta to deliver an unpleasant message:
Krista has committed suicide and Lydia has to hire a
lawyer because accusations are flying around, although no specifics are being mentioned.
An audition is set up to pick the cellist who will have the honor to play
the cello concerto.
Olga is picked over the only other competitor, despite the fact that she's not
yet officially a member of the orchestra.
Lydia informs Francesca that she picked someone else to replace Sebastian, and Francesca is disappointed.
Olga visits Lydia and they rehearse together in Lydia's studio.
Lydia has the first discussion with her lawyer about Krista.
Then she learns that Francesca has suddenly resigned and left town.
Lydia drives like a maniac to Francesca's place and Sharon demands to get off the car. Lydia stops, lets Sharon out and reaches Francesca's place, but Francesca has vacated the apartment.
In the middle of the night the neighbor wakes up Lydia asking for help: her invalid mother is lying on the floor and she needs Lydia to help lift her.
Olga comes to practice again. Afterwards, Lydia drives Olga home.
Olga forgets something in the car and Lydia tries to find her in the building,
which looks like it was a bombed out building from the war.
The building seems abandoned and falling apart.
Lydia hears singing and footsteps but can't find anybody.
Suddenly, she hears a dog, trips and hits his face on the stairs.
Now she has a scar on her face. She tells Sharon that she was mugged.
The rehearsals go on smoothly. Outside the concert hall, however, trouble
is brewing: a video goes viral of her insulting and abusing students,
and a newspaper accuses her of being a sexual predator.
Lydia denies everything and claims that Krista was just a fan obsessed with her.
Back home Lydia realizes that her performance score has vanished.
Lydia flies to New York for the book launch, but is met by protesters
who accuse her of being responsible for Krista's death.
Lydia also is also called to a legal deposition about Krista: she
replies "i don't know" and "i don't remember" to all questions.
The lawyer of the deposition hints that they have emails that will refresh Lydia's memory (presumably, Francesca betrayed her).
Lydia makes the mistake of taking Olga with her to New York, ostensibly to carry her bags, but someone makes a video of them together implying that Olga is Lydia's new prey. When she returns home, she finds a furious Sharon, who has learned
like everybody else of all the accusations and is jealous of Olga.
Sharon kicks Lydia out of the apartment.
At the same time the board decides to fire Lydia as the conductor and replaces
her with Eliot.
The neighbors politely complain about her music, and she responds playing the
accordion and singing very loudly.
On the opening night Lydia enters the backstage of concert hall and then
assaults Eliot as he is beginning to perform.
She punches and kicks Eliot until she is restrained and dragged out.
Both the orchestra and the audience are shocked.
Next we see her, some time later, taking a taxi to a middle-class neighborhood in New York. It's her brother's place and he is not friendly to her.
We learn that her real name is Linda Tarr.
She moves to her own place.
Next we see her, some time later, in Thailand. She has been hired to conduct
a local orchestra. She takes a river tour and is told that there are crocodiles
in the river, left behind after a Marlon Brando movie was filmed there.
She checks into a humble hotel in a busy street and asks for a massage parlor.
Next we see her throwing up in the street after picking a pretty masseuse.
Finally we see her conducting the orchestra in a small concert hall, and the
score is simply the soundtrack of a videogame, for an audience of fans wearing costumes.