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Tár: The formation of the ensemble cast!

The world of concert music is historically patriarchal. However, TÁR sets its sights on the women in Lydia’s personal and professional life, including her romantic partner Sharon, both co-parent to their adopted child and the concertmaster of the orchestra, Tár’s dutiful assistant Francesca, who wants to follow in her boss’s footsteps, and Olga Metkina the young Russian cellist whose youth and self-confidence fuels Tár’s stalled creative energies and complicates her relationship with the orchestra and Sharon. Let’s take a closer look at the ensemble cast of Tár!

Tár: Todd Field breaks down the building of Lydia Tár 's character with Cate Blanchett!
Tár: The formation of the ensemble cast!

“This story has a marriage at its center,” says Field.  “It’s worth knowing that ever since Herbert Von Karajan was ousted from Berlin, there are no more appointment-for-life principal conductors left in Germany. All German orchestras are democratic, which means the players vote the principal conductor in, and that “invitation” can be revoked at any time. The concertmaster may be the unseen hand for the concertgoer, but for the orchestra the concertmaster holds the real power. In this way, the relationship between Tár and Sharon is complicated. And would have been controversial when they first publicly disclosed it.”

Equally complex is the dynamic between Tár and her assistant Francesca Lentini.

“Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a film I like very much,” says Field,  “it introduced me to Sciamma’s other films, Bande de filles and Ma vie de Courgette, but most importantly, at least for this film, to the very special talent that is Noémie Merlant.”

2022 | TÁR Trailer (NOT YET RATED)
2022 | TÁR Trailer (NOT YET RATED)

Francesca is a character in transition. Unlike Tár, Francesca’s is from a cultured bourgeois family. She attended the Conservatoire de Paris, received her MFA from Yale, then a fellowship with the Accordion Foundation, where she met Tár. Their relationship was at times intimate and is now purely transactional. Some years ago, Tár invited Francesca to assist her in Berlin. It was clear to both that this was a stepping-stone to eventually become the assistant conductor. Francesca is privy to the machinations and moves of her boss. Because of this, she has every reason not to trust her, and is quietly constructing a contingency.

Adds Merlant: “Unlike the other characters, we never actually see Francesca play music in the film. Her skill resides in her ear. She’s a listener, a watcher. So, the challenge for me was to embody her love of music and desire to conduct through her body language and her gaze. She admires Tár and wants to learn from her, but, at the same time, she fears her.”

The young Russian cellist, Olga Metkina is a different lens through which to view the orchestra’s power dynamic.

Here is a character so utterly confident in their own skill and identity that they ask for nothing, and, in this way, fill a vacuum for Tár, an empty space where the ferocity of art is obscured for her by the energy spent running a major cultural institution. Tár sees her once-young self in Olga. And, because of this, Tár makes a political misstep, one of many, that will ultimately aid in her undoing.

“Sophie was nothing like this character. But then she started to act…  and there was Olga. When I asked her where she learned her Russian accent she said ‘YouTube.’ Oh, and one other thing: she could play. Really play. Sophie was an extraordinary cellist. We didn’t know this because she was the only cellist we saw who had no social media presence. When we asked her about this, she said it was by design. She didn’t want people hearing her until she ‘was ready.’ That was a perfect introduction to Sophie and consistent with my experience with her as an actor, and player, throughout production and well into post. Sophie Kauer is a force.”

Kauer started playing the cello when she was eight years old.

“They offered me the violin but I said no because you have to stand up to play it,” says Kauer. “I chose the cello because I wanted to stay seated.”

She began hitting her stride with the instrument at age fourteen, receiving a grant to attend a music academy in Switzerland with other young musicians from across Europe. “I knew then this was what I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing. “You have to make a lot of sacrifices for this kind of life. While everyone’s out partying, you’re at home practicing Elgar.”

Field sent Kauer the script who responded to it immediately.

“I was so thrilled that someone wanted to explore the classical music world in this way and tackle so many issues that are relevant today,” says Kauer. “Todd’s writing was beautiful — even the stuff that didn’t make it to the screen, like the scene where the orchestra is agreeing to play the Elgar and he describes bows lifted in the affirmative like ‘a forest grow denser, until it’s fully matured.’”

With the help of dialect coaches Helen Simmons and Inna Resner, Kauer perfected her Russian accent. “They helped get me into the headspace of acting and pushed me to try out new things as I tried to bring Olga to life,” says Kauer. “The dialect work helped me develop her as a character. It was musical, and something that my ear quickly grew accustomed to.”

To better understand acting, Kauer turned once again to YouTube, where she watched an instructional video by Michael Caine.

Because she had never acted before, Kauer asked to remain on set during production when she wasn’t filming her own scenes, constantly observing Nina Hoss and Cate Blanchett exercise their craft.

“I was always on set trying to learn from the best,” says Kauer. “You have these world-class actors around you — why on earth not?”

Kauer had never soloed with a professional orchestra.

“The role was doubly terrifying — most nineteen-year-olds haven’t had much experience in an orchestra, so to arrive on set and perform, and then be recorded on film in a movie was a huge pressure,” says Kauer. “Never mind that I’m playing the cello as someone else — not how I would normally play. Todd had very specific ideas about how he wanted things phrased musically, and Cate was conducting, so I also had to fit with her, and the wonderful players of the Dresden Philharmonie, world-class players who, unlike me, had years of experience playing together as an orchestra.”

Mark Strong plays Eliot Kaplan, one of the world’s top investment bankers whose real passion is classical music.

An amateur conductor, Kaplan has bought his way onto the podium through his connections and specifically through his business ties with Lydia Tár. Theirs is yet another transactional relationship. A decade ago, his Kaplan Fund bankrolled a project near and dear to Tár, the Accordion Foundation, an institute whose guiding principle is to provide performance opportunities for young female conductors.

“Mark is one of my favorite actors,” says Field. “I knew him mostly through his stage work. His Eddie Carbone in Ivo van Hove’s production of Arthur Miller’s A View From The Bridge is one of the great stage performances I’ve ever seen.”

Strong says he was keen to play this role because it “gave me the opportunity to play a look and a character far removed from myself which is something I am always looking to do.”

Julian Glover plays Andris Davis, Tár’s predecessor at Berlin.

He is someone she talks shop with on a regular basis, as he is one of the few people in the world she can relate to. For Tár, this is both a blessing and a curse. She loves the man but is also aware she doesn’t want to find herself in his position in the third act of her life.

“Julian is someone whose work speaks for itself,” says Blanchett, “He is the perfect actor and utterly prepared to find the meat of a character. When we shot our scenes together, Julian had just turned the 86, and he was letter perfect, and brought such a rich knowledge of craft with him that was vital for this character.”

“I was instantly lured by the knowledge that Todd would be directing, amazed that I’d be working with the brilliant Cate, then stunned when I read the extraordinary, wonderful, original and MUSICAL script.” says Glover. “My acceptance of the role in such a project was a no-brainer, and so it proved to be.”

Allan Corduner, a mainstay on the British stage and Broadway, and a veteran film actor known to many, plays Sebastian Brix, Berlin’s assistant conductor.

Sebastian arrived in Berlin in 1990 with Andris Davis, and, as Eliot Kaplan says to Tár, was a decision she “inherited.” Field and Corduner first met more than thirty years ago when the two were working together as actors.

“Allan is a stupendous actor,” says Field. “And a great human being. He knew precisely who Sebastian was and played him as if he was a court character in an Elizabethan drama. It was wonderful to collaborate with him again after so many years.”

“Working on TÁR was truly one of the great pleasures and privileges I’ve had during a long career,” says Corduner. “I’ve known Todd Field for many years and always admired his talent, humility and rigour. He loves and respects actors, rehearsing with them in a quiet space before shooting – a rarity these days. One feels totally supported.”

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Source: Focus Features Press

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Chiara Lombatti
Chiara Lombatti
When Cristina Yang’s mankind hate, and Sherlock Holmes’ deductive skills meet Randall Pearson’s anxiety and Jamie Fraser’s multilingualism (featuring Claire Fraser’s curls and Kate Pearson’s voice). Translator and feature article with a great love for cinema, TV series and books.


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