Fiddler On The Roof

"Essential"

Fiddler On The Roof Review


As an art form, musicals are dubious at best. Musicals started out bloated and cliché-ridden in the days of Busby Berkeley, and thanks to Andrew Lloyd Webber and Co. many of today's musicals are even more bloated and cliché-ridden. Like Vegas shows and daytime soaps, most Broadway musicals seem so bad to me that I have never understood how any human being could get any entertainment value out of them --- much less millions of people.

So it has always been amazing to me that a few musicals actually aspired to be clever, serious-minded works of art. And several of them (My Fair Lady, Singin' in the Rain, South Pacific, West Side Story) have been made into classic films as well. In my opinion, Fiddler on the Roof stands at the top, both as a musical and as a film.

The setting is of course Anatevka, an imaginary small town in nineteenth-century Russia which is the temporary home of a small Jewish community. They hope the czar will not notice them, but at the end of the movie, the Russian authorities run them out of town. In the meantime, the action centers around Teyve, an ordinary farmer (Topol) who is trying to marry off his daughters to his friends, but sadly they keep running off with losers and Bolsheviks.

This part of the script is based on the stories of Sholom Aleichem, but if you're looking for historical accuracy, you've missed the point. The strength of the script is the universality of its themes --- homelessness and suffering, religious faith and doubt, the struggle to hold on to tradition in times of change. These ideas are explored in the musical in a light-hearted but serious-minded way. And these themes are subtly amplified by Norman Jewison's direction in the film.

All supporting performances are strong, especially Norma Crane as Tevye's wife Golde and Rosalind Harris, Michele Marsh and Neva Small as the daughters. The film is slow at times and grim at the end, but so is life.

The musical score is hardly folk music, of course, but it is effective at capturing the sadness of the time and place. All famous musicals, even the really bad ones, have catchy tunes, but the songs in Fiddler on the Roof are not only musically sophisticated (deliberately reusing musical progressions, for instance) but have lyrics that address serious themes. The sentiments in songs like "If I Were a Rich Man" and the rest are simple, but universal, and it's hard not to empathize with Tevye and the others as they sing them. There may be plenty of films that are more fun to rent than Fiddler on the Roof, but how many of them get to the heart of the human experience?



Fiddler On The Roof

Facts and Figures

Run time: 181 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 3rd November 1971

Budget: $9M

Distributed by: United Artists

Production compaines: The Mirisch Corporation, Cartier Productions

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 81%
Fresh: 29 Rotten: 7

IMDB: 8.0 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer:

Starring: as Golde, as Motel, as Yente, Chaim Topol as Tevye, as Lazar Wolf, as Tzeitel, as Hodel, Neva Small as Chava, as Perchik, Ray Lovelock as Fyedka, Elaine Edwards as Shprintze, Candy Bonstein as Bielke, Shimen Ruskin as Mordcha, Zvee Scooler as Rabbi, as Constable

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Life Movie Review

Life Movie Review

Like a mash-up of Alien and Gravity, this ripping sci-fi horror movie is very effective...

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

Based on a true story, it's the historical aspect of these events that holds the...

Chips Movie Review

Chips Movie Review

It's clear from the very start that this movie has little to do with the...

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

This remake of Disney's 1991 classic is remarkably faithful, using present-day digital animation effects to...

The Salesman Movie Review

The Salesman Movie Review

Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi won his second Oscar with this astute drama which, like 2011's...

Get Out Movie Review

Get Out Movie Review

Leave it to a comedian to make one of the scariest movies in recent memory....

Personal Shopper Movie Review

Personal Shopper Movie Review

After winning a series of major awards for her role in Olivier Assayas' Clouds of...

Advertisement
Certain Women Movie Review

Certain Women Movie Review

In films like Wendy and Lucy and Meek's Cutoff, writer-director Kelly Reichardt has told sharply...

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

After the success of 2014's Godzilla reboot, the Warner Bros monsters get their own franchise,...

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Filmmaker Gurinder Chada (Bend It Like Beckham) draws on her own family history to explore...

Trespass Against Us Movie Review

Trespass Against Us Movie Review

With an extra dose of attitude and energy, this Irish comedy-drama hits us like a...

Logan Movie Review

Logan Movie Review

Hugh Jackman returns to his signature role one last time (so he says), reuniting with...

Patriots Day Movie Review

Patriots Day Movie Review

The third time's a charm for Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg, who previously teamed...

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

It's no surprise that this creep-out horror thriller is packed with whizzy visual invention, since...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.