The Platform

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Both The Third Man and Tár are masterpieces way ahead of their time.

They are both ghost stories, microcosms, and a critique of the evolving political and cultural wars of their respective eras, one several decades ago, and the other current to our time. Both films accurately capture our collective tensions, mistrust, and fears. The distinctive tilted camera angles catch the jaunty ambivalence, the distant noises, and the strange shadows, creating a sense of tension and uneasiness and the menacing, noirish atmosphere of betrayal and disappointment, that evolves as a question between characters and their relationships.

Both are about a journey for the truth through the inferno, symbolized in basements and labyrinth-like places, even in the form of auditoriums or apartments, while the abstract structural aspect of the narrative fuels the dialogue about the existence and the reflection of good vs. evil on an interpersonal and collective level. Although in both films the camera angles are distant in order to not shed explicit insight, both rely on the technique of ‘chiaroscuro effect’ commenting about the constant re-existence of light and dark, to stimulate feelings of “dramatic tension, psychological instability, confusion, and madness.”

The multi-dimensional character of human nature is transformed and translated into a multi-dimensional use of location, where angles and lighting correlate with the multilayered themes of the story, setting the inconvenient questions we all need without compromise. In Tár, an art-house movie that was nominated in several categories at the Oscars, there is “a quest to uncover/discover what the composer meant with each piece” as David Ferguson wrote in a review shortly after the film’s release.

While music is a metaphor for Lydia’s, and in fact society’s ghosts, in The Third Man, there is “a quest to find the mysterious ‘third man’ present at Harry’s death, similarly expressing ghosts of a society surrendered in shadows and whispers.

In Orson Welles’ The Third Man, one of the main characters in a key scene stands on the top of a Ferris wheel eternally measuring time in a destroyed city and theme park, using carnage as a metaphor for the society itself and employing the same high-flown rhetoric that Lydia Tár does in her opening interview, to justify making profits at the expense of others. Renaissance wars produced great art and philosophy, Harry argues in The Third Man, whereas brotherly love, peace, and democracy in Switzerland brought the “cuckoo clock.”

When Holly Martins arrives in Vienna, he has multiple wristwatches to measure time, and “time is the thing” no matter if it is measured by a maestro at the expense of the people far beneath her or a metronome carrying the labyrinth symbol of indigenous people. It is still a clear allegory of a world where “provincial conservatives” and “civilized corporate progressives” are cloaked in a veneer of voracious, cynical capitalism, where culture and civilization are destroyed by easy, ready-to-be-consumed answers, reproducing social subjects unable to think and act on their own.

Borders are constantly transcended in both films. The implication of these aforementioned feelings not only imposes the question of what is good and evil, but they produce one of the most exciting inter-textual dialogues in film history.

Orson Welles, “the director who inspired most people behind cameras to become directors,” was one of Stanley Kubrick’s strongest personal influences. Kubrick himself passed this tradition to Todd Field, the director of Tár. William Arnold, in reviewing Field’s In the Bedroom, wrote: “[Field’s direction] manages to feel both highly controlled and effortlessly spontaneous at the same time; and his lifting of the facade of this picturesque, Norman Rockwell setting is carried out with surgical precision.” Arnold continued: “like Kubrick, Field doesn’t make any moral judgments about his characters, and his film remains stubbornly enigmatic. It can be read as a high-class revenge thriller, an ode to the futility of vengeance, or almost anything in between.”

The Third Man took home an Oscar for Best Cinematography. Tár received rave reviews and a BAFTA but it didn’t take home an Oscar statute. Today, The Third Man is considered one of the greatest English films of all time. Tár will have a similar future. Both films are masterpieces way ahead of their time, functioning as social prophets of things we must eventually face, unmasking ourselves.

Eleni Kapa-Karasavidou teaches Interculturality and Literature at the University of Ioannina, Greece. She studied Pedagogy and Mass Media at the Aristotelion University of Thessaloniki. Eleni was honoured with a scholarship by the University of Nottingham and received a Master's degree in Cultural Studies. She completed a second Master's degree in Intercultural Education and a Ph.D in Children's Literature. She was the organiser of the InterBalkan Network for Intercultural Education. She is a member of various cultural, social and scientific institutions. She has been published in various magazines and newspapers and has been honoured under the aegis of the Greek Ministry of Culture for her work.