by Kat Park

* Warning: spoiler alerts galore for Tár, the film


When did time start?

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” – Genesis 1:1

“And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.’ And it was so. God made two great lights--the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good.” – Genesis 1:14-18

“Time is the thing. Time is the essential piece of interpretation. You cannot start without me. See, I start the clock. Now, my left hand, it shapes, but my right hand, the second hand, marks time and moves it forward. However, unlike a clock, sometimes my second hand stops, which means that time stops. Now, the illusion is that like you, I’m responding to the orchestra in real time, making the decision about the right moment to restart the thing, or reset it, or throw time out the window altogether. The reality is, that right from the very beginning I know precisely what time it is, and the exact moment that you and I will arrive at our destination together.” – Lydia Tár

When God created the world, He established the structure of time–day and night. By the powerful utterance of His words, sky, land, seas, vegetation, animals, and humans came into existence. There was a perfect harmony and order where only days before the earth was without form and void. On the 6th day of creation, God speaks life into the world, but differently from the previous 5 days:

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” – Genesis 1:26-27

When God creates man, there is power and responsibility he gives us as creations made in His image. He blesses us, calls us to subdue the earth, fill the earth, and have dominion over every living thing. He doesn’t give any other living thing this blessing and command. Plants and animals don’t have the ability to do what we do nor are they made in God’s image, and, therefore, they are not held accountable the way that we are. There’s never been a type of tree or dog “canceled” for simply being itself. Plants and animals may harm or hunt other creatures, but we don’t attribute any malice or evil intent to them. Humans are unique, then, in our ability to hold such power, but also to abuse it.

For God, the act of creating is a natural expression of His power, love, and goodness. He created something and then delighted in it. He didn’t try to sell anything or market it to someone else for a price. He didn’t put it on Instagram and wait for a bunch of likes to feel like he did a good job. He didn’t work to gain someone’s approval and self-worth. He perfectly and joyfully worked with the Trinity, beheld His work and called it good, and then rested on the seventh day. In these seven days, there is no destruction. Only creation of new life. In that, God is wholly unique. Only he is capable of creating new and everlasting life as a natural expression of himself.

For humans, the act of creating is a way that we reflect God’s image. To create requires a kind of power, and paired with that power is also control. An artist manipulates paints with a brush on a canvas, a consultant organizes information in a coherent way to effectively communicate to their client, a parent cuts and cooks various vegetables and proteins to make an edible family meal. Sometimes we create to survive, other times as a form of expression and enjoyment (sometimes it’s a combination of both). We all create in various ways, and this, ever more so, includes the creation of our identities and self-worth.

Lydia Tár is powerful, confident, well-spoken, and intelligent. She seems to command every room with a quiet strength. Everyone wants to speak with her, be associated with her, and learn from her. She is a woman who enjoys the finest luxuries, but never in a gaudy and overt fashion. Her suits are made from scratch, perfectly tailored to her, and yet restrained, modest. Her pencils lie neatly in their boxes, her note-filled scores are placed within her perfectly ordered shelves, and she drives a sleek Porsche. She is a woman of great prowess, taking private planes to cities around the world, driven in a private car, and never without an eager assistant at her side who knows her every need. Everything is neat, put together, and smooth. She is unflappable, every strand of hair in its rightful place. In the “first act” of the film, the only time we see her slightly perturbed is whenever a woman by the name of Krista Taylor is mentioned.

The film is a meta discourse of someone who attempts to create herself and appears to be successful in doing so, only to take a path headed to destruction. We may not all be as world-renowned or ambitious as Lydia Tár, but when we look at the subtleties of human desire and how they play out through our daily decisions we see that we’re not so different. It begs the question: Why do we create? If, indeed, we are created in God’s image, it would only be natural that we all have the desire to do so. However, we see in Genesis 3, as soon as the serpent entices Eve with the half-lie that she can be like God on her own terms (we were made in his image, so yes, we are already like him), our desire to create (and everything else) is tinged with this same rebellion. Perhaps we create to be like God, to feel like God, tobe God. Tár explores that which I love studying and observing most: human nature. We admire, aspire to be, or surround ourselves with Lydia Társ but, without our Creator, “all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2).

Lydia starts the film at the peak of her game, sharing her thoughts on the importance of time. It is as if she wields time itself. Unlike a metronome or a clock, the hand keeps going at a steady and predictable pace whereas Lydia claims that she is the one who stops time and starts it again. Although she’s speaking of her performances, this belief has undoubtedly bled into her psyche as we see the questionable choices she makes throughout the film. It’s only when things start to spiral out of her control that we see her humanity.


Early hints of Lydia’s secret and subtle indiscretions are littered everywhere: she flirts back with a married woman after her on-stage interview, and we also observe the slight tension and intimacy she holds with her conducting fellow and assistant, Francesca. We’re not sure if these are just moments when we’re reading too much into the situation or if they’re indications of something deeper, but her magnetism clearly displays someone at the height of her power. Conducting an orchestra is an interesting occupation in that you are not creating something entirely new, per se. Perhaps your interpretation of a composer’s concerto is different from another’s, but you yourself are not playing the instruments, composing a song, or even providing musical directions like pianissimo or crescendo. Conducting an orchestra is essentially directing people and their instruments to be manipulated in such a way as to produce the sound that one believes must be heard. You are a glorified producer. There is something quite literal in Lydia’s career choice as she takes and controls those around her to get what she wants. She is like X-Men’s Rogue–by sucking the life force out of others she gains life. In the beginning, people willingly give themselves to her because she’s the best of the best. They believe that being under her direction or being near her will influence their futures as well, so it’s not entirely fair to say that Lydia’s the only one doing the taking. Lydia’s life is a web of transactional relationships, and she, the black widow.

Except one–her daughter, Petra. With her there is no transaction. Only love and a fierce desire to protect. Although unclear, one assumes that Petra is not her biological daughter as she is of mixed race and her partner is a Caucasian woman. Therefore, like her occupation, she is not responsible for Petra’s creation, but there is never a hint of manipulation or immorality when it comes to her daughter. Besides this one redeeming quality, we see Lydia’s misconduct become more exposed as her power clouds her judgment. A young cellist, Olga, is the first time we see a true shift in the dynamic of power. Lydia takes a sudden interest in this young woman, bending conclave rules to find a way to get her a permanent spot in the orchestra and play a solo for their major performance, even though it should have rightfully gone to the first chair cellist, Gosia. Lydia becomes increasingly daring in her impropriety, which her partner, Sharon, catches onto. The complicated web of transactional relationships starts to unravel as she lets go of her assistant conductor, Sebastian, who is also the (not-so) secret lover to her married mentor, Andris Davis. Towards the end of their confrontation, Sebastian angrily responds to Lydia claiming that he knew his days were numbered as soon as Francesca came on board. “Just because nobody dares breathe it. We know the things you do. The little favors you grant.” She accuses him right back because of his and Andris’ affair. Covering affairs with other affairs, that’s the Lydia way. In the next scene, she passes over Francesca as the replacement for Sebastian so as not to appear that she does, indeed, groom young women and grant “little favors”. She covers her tracks at the expense of others and their livelihoods.

This is only the beginning of the destructive spiral that Lydia goes down. Eventually, Krista Taylor, only 25 years old, kills herself. Lydia is now in legal trouble and being approached by lawyers as her involvement in Krista’s life comes to light, but her behavior with Olga becomes increasingly bold. It’s as if she knowingly walks towards the destruction of her reputation because owning up to the truth would be a worse death, or worse than death. What’s most interesting about the film is that we see multiple meetings she has with legal teams and even a PR team to help her “reconstruct” her image from the ground up, but we never see or hear Lydia admit her wrongdoing. They say that the “road to hell is paved with good intentions,” but here we see someone who knowingly makes immoral choices to advance herself. Lydia’s path is paved with the people she’s stepped on to move ahead and gain or maintain her power.


“Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, he said, ‘Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?’ The words were still on his lips when a voice came from heaven, ‘This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes.’ Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like cattle. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.” – Daniel 4:29-33

King Nebuchadnezzar was the ruler of Babylon, a powerful nation, but he attributes its prosperity to himself, believing that he is the one worthy to be worshiped. God uses His prophet Daniel to present opportunities for the king to “break off [his] sins by practicing righteousness,” but the king refuses to acknowledge that God is the true ruler over all nations and the only one worthy to be praised. Finally, as was told to him, King Nebuchadnezzar is reduced to that of an animal–clearly not someone who is in control of their nation let alone himself. After Lydia’s career falls to ruins and she returns “home,” or the place she grew up, we see that her childhood house is very modest, dimly lit, and low-ceilinged; nothing at all like the modern, grandiose, and sleek spaces we’ve seen her stride through. Like King Nebuchadnezzar, Lydia is humbled, lost, and without power. As she slowly walks around her bedroom, we see multiple awards and plaques with the name “Linda Tarr.” It’s only now that we learn something factual about our anti-heroine. Someone who, only a bit ago, seemed so sure of herself, so destined for great things is, now, nothing but a withered and disgraced woman with a changed name. Who is Lydia Tár without her accolades, Porsche, and bespoke suits? Tony, most likely Lydia’s brother, enters the house and summarizes it best:

Tony: “You must be hiding out.”
Lydia: “Why would I be hiding out?”
Tony: “Beats the hell out of me. None of my business anyhow. Lot of loose ends, you got to admit.”
Lydia: “What do you mean?”
Tony: “Well, like I said, it ain’t my business. But you don’t seem to know where the hell you came from or where you’re going.”

When we confuse ourselves with God, it seems what we’re really saying is that we don’t know who we are. We, humans, were created to enjoy, worship, and reflect God, but when we aberrate from this we lose ourselves–our humanity. The oft-repeated irony is that in trying to be God, we move further away from him. Besides the love for her daughter, there is very little humaneness that we see from Lydia.

Perhaps the only other glimpse of her humanity is after she moves to the Philippines for a new job. She asks her hotel concierge where she can get a massage, but he misunderstands and gives her the address to a massage sex parlor. Lydia is unaware and walks into the establishment, not understanding the situation that she is walking into. The receptionist opens up an alcove with glass doors, behind which are many women in robes, kneeling on the floor in an arrangement that resembles an orchestral theater. The women are all looking down at the floor and have numbered placards, and Lydia is directed to pick a number of the woman she’d like to receive a “massage” from. The woman with the placard labeled “5” is the only one who looks up and directly at her. Mahler’s “Symphony No. 5” was the piece Lydia was supposed to conduct with the Berlin Orchestra. Horrified, Lydia runs out of the massage parlor and vomits onto the street. What Lydia never reveals to the audience throughout the film comes out, quite literally, as a physical and uncontrollable response.

At the end of Daniel 4, even Nebuchadnezzar, after being restored to his former self, repents for his pride and acknowledges that God is king over all. Can we say the same for our anti-heroine? The film seems to hint at this answer with an unsettling end: Lydia goes through the same routines of research, practice, and rigor to prepare her orchestra. She is trying to rebuild her career in the Philippines, but it doesn’t seem that she’s learned from her mistakes or is attempting to change. It’s not until the final scene that we see Lydia is, in fact, conducting an orchestra for a fantasy video game and cosplay event. What was glorious and awe-inspiring about her and her craft now seems degrading and meaningless. Lydia Tár, the once-powerful conductor, is, like Sisyphus, perpetually rolling the boulder back up the mountain from whence she came in pitiful hope that she’ll reach the top. Time continues while Lydia is stuck in a repetitive song of her own making.