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

New Movies

The Party Movie Review

The Party Movie Review

Comedies don't get much darker than this pitch-black British movie, written and directed by Sally...

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha) is on his way to becoming the new Woody Allen, which...

6 Below Movie Review

6 Below Movie Review

Based on an astonishing true survival story, this film is subtitled "Miracle on the Mountain",...

Mother Movie Review

Mother Movie Review

Darren Aronofsky doesn't make fluffy movies, and has only had one genuine misfire (2014's Noah)....

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

It's been 35 years since Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic, which was set in 2019....

On the Road Movie Review

On the Road Movie Review

Wolf Alice fans are likely to be rather disappointed by this hybrid documentary-drama about the...

Borg/McEnroe Movie Review

Borg/McEnroe Movie Review

Skilfully made by Swedish filmmaker Janus Metz (the award-winning Armadillo), this film is essentially a...

Advertisement
The Glass Castle Movie Review

The Glass Castle Movie Review

There are quite a few terrific moments in this true story, based on the memoir...

Home Again Movie Review

Home Again Movie Review

Reese Witherspoon is so likeable that she can carry even the most hackneyed of romantic...

Brimstone Movie Review

Brimstone Movie Review

An unnerving Western with a sharp female perspective, this film is a series of gruesome...

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Movie Review

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Movie Review

Two years ago, Kingsman: The Secret Service seemed to come out of nowhere, ruffling feathers...

Goodbye Christopher Robin Movie Review

Goodbye Christopher Robin Movie Review

This biopic about Winnie the Pooh author A.A. Milne may look like the usual lushly...

Wind River Movie Review

Wind River Movie Review

After writing the superb Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan moves back into...

The Vault Movie Review

The Vault Movie Review

Filmmakers Dan Bush and Conal Byrne attempt a mash-up of a frantic heist movie with...

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.