Costume Design and Production “TÁR”: Creating and Unmaking the World of Lydia

Costume designer Bina Daigeler and production designer Marco Bittner Rosser tell IndieWire about the intersection of artistry, expertise and intellectualism occupied by Cate Blanchett’s fictional composer.

Genius conductor. Illustrious composer. Author. Teacher. The gorgeous (and very fictional) Lydia Tár – the delicate virtuoso at the center of Todd Field’s masterful psychodrama “TÁR” – is all of these things and more, dwelling in wealthy and privileged corners of the international classical music community with a impeccable style both sober and powerful.

Played by a haunting Cate Blanchett, Tár inhabits an exclusive intersection of artistry, expertise and intellectualism that is rooted in Berlin but spans continents, an intersection that famed film costume designer Bina Daigeler and designer of production Marco Bittner Rosser brings to life with high-end finesse, through the glories and flaws of the master’s problematic legacy as it falls from grace.

For Daigeler, minimalism was one of the vital keywords of Tár’s wardrobe, a quality she brought front and center, contrasting some of the dazzling maximalist work with which she made a name for herself. name, like the Oscar-nominated costumes of “Mulan” (2020) and the vibrant films of Pedro Almodóvar. “I’ve done other minimalist films. ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ was good training for that,” she said, alluding to the Jim Jaramusch vampire comedy which also featured production design by Rosser. Still, it was a huge challenge for the designer to strip her work down to the bare essentials, making sure that Blanchett’s clothes never flaunt too blatantly. “It’s always about the feelings, character and story. And then you have to eliminate,” she explains.

Overall, Daigeler approached contemporary “TÁR” with the same investigative discipline that would have been required by a period film, drawing inspiration from different avenues – the name Tár, rearranged into “rat” and “art “, graffiti from the Berlin Wall, a painting by Edvard Munch, and his extensive research into male and female conductors, from Marin Alsop to Herbert von Karajan. Once she compiled a full mood board that looked like “gritty, dark Berlin graffiti,” she started subtracting. With that in mind, there were several costumes, like a gorgeous Dries van Noten costume that she and Blanchett loved, that didn’t make it into the movie. “It’s actually good that they weren’t in the movie, because it made the rest essential,” she said.

Likewise, Rosser favored a minimalist and uncluttered look, focusing particularly on the characteristic facets of Tár’s domestic interiors, both imposing and sparse. “We were trying to figure out the best way to find the domestic space that would represent her greatness and the magnitude of the role she performed,” he recalls. “But a typical home environment would have been a bit mundane. So we found ourselves in this apartment of concrete brutalist architecture. This space quickly proved to be the right choice, with an effortless appearance that highlighted important pieces, like the central grand piano.

To soften the harsh contours of brutalist architecture, Rosser played with light fixtures as soft, intimate design elements. “The lights allowed us to bring warmth to the scenes. Even if we have a lot of cold surfaces, we find ourselves in a warm atmosphere thanks to the large chandeliers that are integrated into the whole. He also maintained a close relationship with Daigeler who frequently shared with Rosser how the fittings went, as well as what Blanchett and Field liked. “We would exchange a lot of information with each other in the process of getting our two departments to the right level. I had to make sure our colors and contrast levels matched.

The result of this teamwork is generously reflected in the film through Tár’s chic home and closet. The former features an eclectic mix of furniture and art, while the latter features various sharp, bespoke two-piece suits, a variety of shapes and leading brands such as Parisian brand Lemaire, Dries van Noten and The Row. “Some furniture was from China. There was a Ming vase, 1930s stuff and a lot of mid-century elements,” Rosser said. “A cultural genius like her would be interested in a very diverse selection and would put a point of honor not to refer to a single era, but to choose the best pieces of all time and surround yourself with them.”


Courtesy of Focus Features

Knowing that Blanchett needed space around her arms for directing scenes, Daigeler designed the tailcoat she wears on stage with a certain aesthetic and special pieces that allowed for movement. She also had to make sure the jacket itself didn’t move too much, so she tied it with a rubber band around the waist. Some of those ideas came from Blanchett’s coach, Natalie Murray Beale. Others were more improvised. “There was a rehearsal where Cate wore her own high waisted jeans. She said, ‘It feels really good. It gives me a lot of support in my heart and I need it. “The jeans have been recreated in a different color for Blanchett to wear on screen.

Finding the ideal concert hall was just as crucial for the authenticity of Lydia’s professional universe. Rosser was able to secure a beautiful vineyard-style space in Dresden to represent the home of Tár’s orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic. It was the right concert hall for the story, not only because of its beauty but also because of its rare seating structure that wraps the audience around the stage. “Visually it was great. There are very few concert halls that have this layout where you have seats behind the stage. But getting the concert hall was quite an interesting process,” Rosser said, explaining how the life imitated art during this time.” We see certain moments in the film where Lydia Tár takes the votes of the orchestra. It’s actually a fact; the orchestra is a democratic body. We also had to present our project and 110 musicians voted whether or not they wanted to work with us. Todd went there personally, met the orchestra and sold them the project.

The room was designed in the 1960s and recently renovated by the prestigious German architecture firm Gerkan, Marg and Partners. But while rehearsal scenes were shot on location, spaces such as administrative offices were either designed or found in other locations. Rosser always thought of a specific configuration of corridors, terraces, staircases and meeting rooms with elements of the post-war architecture of the 1950s and 1960s. of the century after the war represent the rebirth of a culture that was trying to reinvent itself. We represented a certain period that we wanted to relate to. The offices have been designed and built. For the hallways, we used pieces from the building of the Berlin Public Library. Then we also used the corridors of a conference center built in the 60s by an American architect. They worked really well together in terms of textures and colors.

(Left to right) Sophie Kauer stars as Olga Metkina and Cate Blanchett stars as Lydia Tár in director Todd Field's TÁR, a Focus Features release.  Credit: Courtesy of Focus Features


Courtesy of Focus Features

Both designers had to bring their own dexterity to embody Tár’s decline once she showed her true colors as a destructive and abusive figure of power. “For me, there were three pieces in her wardrobe,” Daigeler said. “When she was at the top; so sure that she will finally conduct Mahler’s Fifth. When everything is falling apart little by little. And when it really needs to downsize and reinvent itself. And it cannot reinvent itself because it depends on the work of others. She is not a painter who can paint alone. She must be humble and accept that the rest of the world knows exactly what she is doing. Daigeler has therefore followed this trajectory, evolving Tár’s self-assured look in segments towards something more modest, and sometimes even disheveled.

Rosser also had to factor in Tár’s journey into the depths. Conceptually, he focused on a growing sense of claustrophobia, ensuring that the curtains in the brutalist apartment remained closed and the concert hall felt fenced in. “The only window we see is in the scene where she gets fired. We kept her in a closed world that doesn’t really have anything to do with the outside world. She really relates to herself. Changes have also been made to the municipal workshop of Tár in Berlin, where the maestro sometimes goes to compose. “It was important to Todd to create the feeling of an authentic space that felt like everything in one space. And that completely changes after she gets fired. There are elements of that in a scene that we shot but didn’t end up in the film: she was drawing on all the walls, the furniture changes and the space changes. It wasn’t necessary in the movie, but in terms of character design, it was very helpful for all of us to go through this process.

Meanwhile, almost the opposite experience has happened to Daigeler, with a costume-centric sequence that follows the making of an expensive bespoke suit for Tár, “It was a two-line in the script,” said Daigeler. “I never worried about it at first. But one day I had to find out what Todd wanted. And then I figured out that we were doing a short film on how to make a jacket and a suit. J I said, ‘But it’s not in your program. Who’s going to cut it? Who will? We need a tailor. And so we started planning all of this. The exquisite intro ended up being a two-day second unit shoot. Daigeler wanted to use corduroy, while Field insisted on wool. “Of course, he’s the director. He was the winner. And so we choose this thick cashmere wool, really beautiful. We choose the right fabric for the shirt. Everything was adapted to his measurements. I was wondering if it would end up in the film. And then there he was. I was so happy because that says a lot about the tempo of the film and describes so much the world of Todd Field, of Lydia Tár.

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