Director: Todd Field | Script: Todd Field | Cast: Cate Blanchett (Lydia Tár), Noémie Merlant (Fransesca Lentini), Nina Hoss (Sharon Goodnow), Sophie Kauer (Olga Metkina), Julian Glover (Andris Davis), ea | Time to play: 158 minutes | Year: 2022
Deposit strikingly responds to current events with a surprising but flat character study of a world-famous conductor. Lydia Tár is the first woman of all time to conduct the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and she represents the milestone of having performed all of Mahler’s symphonies with them when they begin work on the last one. Stubborn, she talks to the press, while a book about her is published. But then disaster strikes when a former protégé commits suicide and Lydia Tár’s dubious dealings with young musicians become public.
sixteen years later Small children director Todd Field returns with another subject surrounded by controversy. The setting feels slightly satirical in tone, how ostentatiously the present returns. For example, people engage in lockdowns while ignoring the worst public health crisis in a hundred years. Lydia Tár is allowed to triumphantly criticize a student’s narcissistic identity politics before the film turns to her. The reasons for her actions remain unknown. Along with the narrative form of tragedy, Field therefore disagrees with the contemporary trend of hashtag mobs playing for their own judge.
Rather than sharp judgment, Field prefers to delve into Lydia Tár’s psyche. The film proceeds at a frosty pace, so the intrigues of the untouchable driver sometimes go unnoticed. Field pontifically portrays her as a phenomenon within austere sets and tight framing, despite the tonal contrasts of hazy dream scenes or an absurdly satirical conclusion. It feels like a classic drama. Deposit therefore as a performance, as framed by tradition as the world of classical music in which the story takes place.
In keeping with Field’s theatrical style, Blanchett makes her character convincingly present. Her face remains straight as she leads the people in her life toward the results she desires, even outside of trials. Because the movie is so wrapped up in her character, she brings that headstrong attitude with some sympathy. But compared to a movie like The bed you sleep in the setup ultimately feels too thin. In that movie, filmmaker Jon Jost takes on the role of a sexual abuser in a much more treacherous way, where it’s impossible to escape the virtuous rotating camera and harsh social criticism.
Field’s script feels too twisted to easily find contrasts and taunts. Especially men in positions of power commit sexual abuse, but here a lesbian does it. In addition to the executed student, characters such as a neighbor who mistreats her elderly mother seem to derive her right to exist primarily from making a point. In Deposit the rather opportunistically chosen current affairs and Blanchett’s sometimes flat acting just don’t quite mesh together.