Florian Hoffmeister interview: ‘TAR’ cinematographer
“It’s an absolute privilege to see somebody indulge themselves in the way that (Cate Blanchett) did. She totally immersed herself in (the role). It also raises the stakes because Todd (Field) is a very meticulous director. He has an amazing visual sensitivity. These are two people who I would say pay cash,” believes Florian Hoffmeister, the German-born cinematographer for “TAR.” “Their styles are very brave, so it raises the bar. It also puts some weight on your shoulders.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.
“TAR” tells the fictional story of the triumphant rise and stunning fall of Lydia Tár (played by Blanchett), considered one of the world’s greatest classical composer-conductors, whose career is threatened by allegations of misconduct. The movie from writer-director Field is conceived as the tale of an actual artist rather than a scripted narrative and has received generally positive reviews, including many raves. It was voted the Best Picture of 2022 by both the New York Film Critics Circle and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. Meanwhile, Blanchett has emerged as an Oscar favorite for Best Actress.
For Hoffmeister, when the call came from Field asking him if he’d like to direct the photography for the movie, he admitted, “I was ready to photograph the New York City phone directory for him. It wouldn’t have really matter. I was ready to go.” This isn’t to say the assignment wasn’t plenty challenging. It often meant going against his instincts and consistently doing less. “Todd had this beautiful catchphrase: ‘Don’t gild the lily’,” Hoffmeister recalls. “My own catchphrase is, ‘Don’t put a hat on a hat.’ Among the unique challenges for the cinematographer was establishing long takes and intense closeups of the protagonist, including in an opening sequence that finds Lydia Tár being interviewed by the actual journalist Adam Gopnik. It’s shown in real time. “The idea was just to be there and not move the camera at all,” he says.
Another critical sequence involves Tár teaching at Julliard that was shot in a single continuous running take. “”We had discussions about not moving the camera, finding these angles that would be immersive but also serve the piece and the space,” Hoffmeister recalls. “Every little rule that you have in your cinematography playbook, like go for depth, we basically ignored to get there. And that was a very rewarding process…I realized we needed to shoot it in a single take, and I jumped at the idea. The performance Cate delivered was just breathtaking.”
Hoffmeister’s work on the Focus Features film has already earned him nominations for Critics Choice, Independent Spirit and Broadcast Film Critics Association awards and could result in an Academy Award nom as well. He also won the 30th EnergaCAMERIMAGE Festival’s Golden Frog. Over the past 10 years, five of that award’s recipients have also been nominated for Best Cinematography at the Oscars. It’s Hoffmeister’s first experience at being a player during awards season, and he’s liking it. “I’m really proud that I’m getting recognized for this piece of work because it was so much about restraint and not beautifying (the shots) overtly,” he says. “Sometimes trying to make things look simple is actually really hard, and for people to acknowledge that means a tremendous amount.”