Tár ending explained: is the final third a dream sequence?
The new film from Todd Field has finally arrived in the UK after prompting all sorts of debate across the Atlantic. **CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR TÁR**
Months after opening to extremely strong reviews across the Atlantic, Todd Field's film Tár finally arrives in UK cinemas today.
The psychological drama is a character study of the fictional American conductor Lydia Tár (superbly played by Cate Blanchett) following her over a three-week stretch that sees her life slowly begin to unravel due to a string of accusations.
It all culminates in a tremendous final act – one that has already prompted much debate amongst critics and cinemagoers, with various theories having been put forward as to exactly what is going on in those last scenes.
If you've watched the film and still need a little help unpacking those closing moments, read on to have the Tár ending explained.
And of course, there are major spoilers for Tár ahead.
Tár ending explained: what happens to Lydia Tár?
When we first meet Lydia Tár – during an on-stage interview with New Yorker journalist Adam Gopnick – she cuts an imposing, formidable figure: a revered composer and conductor who is worshipped by audiences and critics alike.
Over the course of the film, however, the problems gradually begin to pile up. First, there is Krista Taylor, a former prodigy who had become enamoured with Lydia following a sexually transactional relationship that fell apart – with Lydia then essentially blacklisting her from various orchestras by leaving a string of bad references.
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Later in the film, we learn that Krista has died of suicide, and has left a note that strongly accuses Lydia of wrongdoing.
And that isn't the only accusation about Lydia. When he is about to be sacked from his post, assistant conductor Sebastian tells Lydia that he and others in the orchestra are aware of her favouritism, and this accusation certainly isn't without solid grounds.
Throughout the film, we see Lydia show clear signs of preferential treatment toward a young Russian cellist named Olga, beginning when she rigs a blind audition so she can get into the orchestra in the first place.
Lydia's clear attraction towards Olga alienates her partner and the orchestra's lead violinist Sharon as well as her assistant Francesca – who becomes especially irate when Lydia decides not to promote her to Sebastian's former position.
Lydia appears to become increasingly disturbed by the accusations against her – hearing strange noises and experiencing mysterious pains – and one day after she has driven Olga home, she follows the cellist into an abandoned apartment complex only to be scared by a dog and fall, injuring herself in the process.
From there, things get even worse: Francesca resigns without telling her and leaks some damaging emails, more accusations appear in the tabloid press, and an out-of-context clip of her giving a talk at Juilliard goes viral, showing her in a very bad light.
Meanwhile, Olga begins to show a lack of interest in Lydia during a trip to New York, Sharon decides to leave her with their adopted daughter Petra in tow, and a lawsuit against Lydia from Krista Taylor's parents gathers increasing momentum. This all leads to Lydia being removed from her position as conductor.
After attempting to storm the stage and usurping her replacement Eliot during the live recording of Mahler's 5th Symphony – what should have been her crowning moment – Lydia decides to return to her childhood home on Staten Island, where we learn that her name is actually Linda Tarr. Here she watches an old video of her former mentor Leonard Bernstein giving a talk to children about the power of music.
In the film's final moments sometime later, we learn that Lydia has found work conducting an orchestra in the Phillippines. In the very last scene, we see her conducting, with the camera zooming out to reveal the event her orchestra is performing at: a live performance of the score for the Monster Hunter video game series with an audience of cosplayers.
In the classical music world, of course, this would be seen as a major blow to her reputation: whereas the film opened with her speaking at an event considered widely respectable – The New Yorker Festival – this is a far less prestigious event and seems to encapsulate the fall from grace brought about by the accusations against her.
Of course, it doesn't mean her career is over – and when we remember her expression while watching the aforementioned Lenorad Bernstein video, the ending could instead be reframed as her starting her journey again in order to rediscover her passion for music.
Crucially, it's an ending that leaves some things open to the audience's interpretation. It doesn't make a specific judgement on whether Lydia's punishment was fair – or perhaps if it didn't go far enough – instead allowing the viewers to come to their own conclusions.
Speaking about the ending during an exclusive interview with RadioTimes.com, writer/director Todd Field explained: "I always knew where it would end – I always knew where I'd start it and where it would end and I wanted to take a person and make them a vessel for having to hold power.
"And when does that vessel start to crack? You know, and in what manner does that vessel go from being something on a pedestal and sort of literally worshipped to being stuck in the garage?"
Is the final third a dream sequence?
One other theory – that was put forward by Slate journalist Dan Kois – suggests that the aforementioned reading of the film is too literal and that in actual fact something a little more complicated is going on.
According to this theory, the film's final act is all taking place inside Lydia Tár's head, with Kois coming to this conclusion because of the "heightened and weird" nature of many of the events which happen towards the end of the film, from the point at which Lydia enters an abandoned building after driving Olga home onwards.
Instead, she is imagining a worst-case scenario having been spooked by the death of Krista – it's a long moment of introspection that sees her acknowledge that she has committed misdeeds and that perhaps her position of power won't shield her forever.
Asked about this theory and others during a recent interview with Vanity Fair, Field answered: "My intent is completely irrelevant. The dream is that there's going to be enough room for anyone to come in and be the final filmmaker. I’d love to hear when people attack the film for their own reasons. That interests me too.
"There’s no wrong way to read the film. The film is meant to inspire as ferocious or as superfluous speculation as possible, or opinions as possible because that is the only intent behind it."
Tár is now showing in UK cinemas. Check out more of our Film coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to see what's on tonight.
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