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Why Olga vanishes into the derelict building in "Tár": a theory

Olga at the orchestra ....

Olga enters the derelict building after leaving Lydia's car ...

Lydia follows after Olga into the building. The stairs are in the right of the frame.

Peter Howell

Movie Critic

Spoiler alert: stop reading now if you haven't yet seen Todd Field's dramatic mystery "Tár" and you intend to.

I'm about to offer a personal theory about a character called Olga, a Russian cellist played by real-life cellist Sophie Kauer (photo No. 1, above).

Olga does something puzzling midway through the film that appears simple on the surface but which greatly impacts the title character, predatory Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conductor Lydia Tár, played by Cate Blanchett.

Ready for the theory? I hope so, because the notion of "spoiling" this Oscar-buzzed film is absurd to begin with. There are so many intriguing characters and occurrences, with a multitude of possible explanations for them, there should be no fear of giving the game away. Field himself has said there is no "right" way of analyzing "Tár" and he welcomes the many theories about his film.

There's been a lot of chatter about what exactly Olga is up to when she hops out of the silver Porsche driven by Lydia, who has given her new orchestra protégé — and hoped-for sexual prey — a lift to a place that Olga calls home.

It's in a grubby part of Berlin, a graffiti-covered derelict building that looks like it needs a wrecking ball rather than occupants. Olga leaves Lydia's car, carrying her cello, and heads straight into the building (photo No. 2).

Lydia realizes that Olga has left behind a small toy bear. She gets out of the car to return it to her, but as she enters the building, Olga is nowhere to be seen. Lydia proceeds into the darkened premises (photo No. 3), her pursuit of Olga blinding her to the danger of entering a sketchy domain in a rough part of town.

Where does Olga go? Slate writer Dan Kois believes this is the part of the film where it departs from reality and transforms into the uncanny. Nothing is to be considered real from this point on.

It's a perfectly valid view, shared by others. But my theory is simpler: Olga doesn't disappear into thin air, as she seems to in the film. She cuts and runs to get away from Lydia.

Olga goes up a stairway just inside the entrance to the building, which you can see in the third photo. She hides from Lydia there, correctly sussing that the conductor's interest in her is more than musical. She's known since their first lunch together that Lydia, who has a history of bedding and then abandoning her protégés, is sizing her up as yet another potential sexual conquest.

Maybe the stairs lead to another street, which Olga could take to avoid having Lydia follow her. Or maybe Olga just slips back into the main road after Lydia goes deeper into the building, en route to trouble.

We don't know for sure, but one thing seems certain: Olga doesn't want Lydia to know exactly where she lives. It seems likely she told Lydia to drop her off at the derelict building in order to cover her tracks, as she continues to her real address on foot.

Later in the film, Olga turns down a dinner invitation from Lydia, saying she's too tired to go out and she just wants to remain alone in her hotel room. Lydia later spots Olga heading out for a night of entertainment. Olga knows Lydia is after her, but she's not willing to play the mouse to Lydia's cat. 🌓

Twitter: @peterhowellfilm


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