Edited by “TÁR”: Director Todd Field and Editor Monika Willi Interview
Trapped in the middle of nowhere, the writer-director and editor was forced to take into account the ever-changing reactions to the elusive Lydia Tár with each new edit.
When writer-director Todd Field first asked editor Monika Willi to collaborate on TÁR, the plan was to edit in Vienna, where Willi lives. “We both have small children at home, and we decided that only one of us could suffer,” Field told IndieWire. However, by the time production was completed in December 2021, Austria was shut down due to the COVID wave, and London – Field and Willi’s home base – was the next choice in January. This led to a decision that fundamentally changed Field and Willi’s circumstances in a way that ultimately gave them more focus and discipline than they could ever have edited in a traditional setting.
“We made the decision to go somewhere really remote,” said Field, “so we ended up in a 15th-century former monastery 45 minutes outside of Edinburgh, Scotland. Away from their families and with limited contact with the outside world, Field and Willi have established a strict routine of drinking their morning coffee, walking or running separately, and then working side by side every day of the week. “There was nothing to do but walk around the hedgerow and edit. We didn’t have a car, our food was delivered by the supermarket. It was a very hermetic process.”
Read more: Why TÁR is different from other 2022 films
Not surprisingly, isolation helped Willi cope with the difficulties of maintaining the rhythm and structure of Field’s unorthodox script. “The biggest challenge was the overall musicality, bringing the different tempos of the characters into one new composition,” Willi told IndieWire. “To make one big piece out of many smaller pieces and see it never lose its tension.” The long hours and isolation meant that Willi and Field could fine-tune the film as minutely as they wanted without compromise. “The great joy of working with Todd like this was being able to work with such precision, not get free, and work until he got what he wanted. He always strived to be perfect.”
©Focus Features/Courtesy Everett Collection
Willi realized early on in the process that he had to think carefully about the sound to find the right form for the images. “The pace of the film is really determined by its musicality, and that’s determined by the sound,” he said. Given how tuned in Lydia TÁR was to the sounds around her, Willi and Field couldn’t wait for the mix to fit what they needed. “It was clear that all the important sounds had to be there while we were cutting the image,” said Willi. To this end, Willi and Field spent much of their time in the monastery recording sounds with a boom microphone attached to a Zoom recorder, which they traded back and forth with sound designer Stephen Griffiths.
“Unless it was windy off the North Sea or the birds were particularly active, we shot a lot of Foley up there,” Field said, noting that working on your own Foley is a practice that began in film school. . “John Roesch, who is one of the great Foley artists of all time, worked on my thesis. He said, “I’ll help you, but you have to learn how to do it.” So he took me into the Foley pits; would shoot sound. It was incredibly satisfying to hold on to every sound you have in your film. And I never wanted to give that up. So there was a great intention behind every single sound in the film. No room noise. We don’t push air on the speakers or anything like that.
Read more: Cate Blanchett was Todd Field’s only choice for TÁR
While the rigors of Field and Willi’s monastic position arguably provided an engagement with the material that would not have otherwise occurred, it also meant that they could only rely on each other for feedback. But even that turned out to be an advantage, as they were forced to probe their reactions to each new cut. “We had coffee every morning and said let’s go through work,” Field said. “We ran the film and at the end we said, ‘How did you feel about him today?’ Those answers would make a lot of difference, and then we’d say, “Okay, why?” At some point you say, “Okay, I feel different today. Not because we changed the cut. I feel different today because I had a bad night, or I feel different today because it’s raining and I thought I’d go for a run.”
Ultimately, Field felt that this kind of examination was effective for a film in which the audience must form its own opinion and judgment about Lydia Tár, and in which there is a delicate balance of figuring out how far the film is ahead of the audience. you should get. “To put it in architectural terms, it’s about making sure the building doesn’t lean in one direction or the other, trying to find a balance – are we showing too much? It was about trying to figure out why you do a film differently than an editorial thing, just to make sure there are access points for everybody. So anyone could bring whatever they wanted to finish the film for themselves.”
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