sexually abusive behaviour

From director Todd Field, Tár is a gripping psychological drama following an acclaimed composer and conductor whose life unravels when her history of abusive behaviour is revealed.

Key classification issue: sexual abuse

Tár invites the audience into the sophisticated world of Lydia Tár; an erudite, forceful and captivating figure. Although married, she is evidently attracted to a new member of her orchestra to whom she gives favourable treatment. As the narrative unfolds, we understand that this is a pattern of behaviour whereby Lydia uses her status to groom and seduce younger women, before discarding them. We also learn that one of her former targets took their own life after Lydia rejected her and sabotaged her career.

Some of the most challenging content from a classification perspective is when sexual violence or abuse is only implied. This discretion can sometimes mean the material is containable at 12A/12, especially if it is clearly condemned. In other cases, the distressing nature of the subject matter itself can affect the classification. Although Lydia’s abusive acts remain largely off-screen or are only subtly implied, their impact is felt throughout and gives the film a brooding, unsettling tone.

Our research has also shown that allowing audiences to empathise with the perpetrator of coercive, controlling or abusive behaviour can make the content inappropriate for younger audiences, especially if there is not a clear condemnation of the perpetrator’s actions. Lydia is initially positioned as a compelling and even likeable protagonist, but as the full extent of her abuse emerges, our sympathy and respect for her wanes. Nevertheless, the complexity of this portrayal could confound or confuse younger viewers, for whom we would expect content to very clearly condemn sexually abusive behaviour. Participants in our latest guidelines research agreed with a 15 rating for the film.

We therefore classified Tár 15 for sexually abusive behaviour.