Fiddler on the Roof (1971) Poster

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10/10
Cultural Divide
bkoganbing24 June 2009
Watching Fiddler On The Roof I couldn't help but think that way back when he was a student, Sholem Aleichem must have gotten a Russian translation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It must have influenced him so that I can't believe it was a coincidence that when he created the story of Tevye the Milkman he had five daughters and he was just looking to get them off his hands just like Mr. Bennett was with his five.

Of course the difference between Czarist Russia for Jews and being part of the landed gentry in early Victorian England is cultural light years. Still fathers, mothers, daughters and prospective sons-in-law are the same wherever you go.

Filling some very big shoes in the lead was Topol who to this day is still appearing in stage productions of Fiddler On The Roof. But in 1971 people still remembered Zero Mostel on Broadway. Mostel was no longer in it, but Fiddler On The Roof was coming to the end of its then record run of 3242 performances. Topol had done the London production though so he was no novice in the part.

Topol justified Norman Jewison's faith in him by garnering an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. Leonard Frey who was Motel the tailor who was the only one from the original Broadway cast and not in the role he did on Broadway got a nomination for Best Supporting Actor. In fact I liked him best in the film, a Yiddish version of Willie Mossop, the worm that turned from another English source, Hobson's Choice.

The cultural divide is the thing about Fiddler On The Roof that does separate it from a Victorian novel to a story of a perennially persecuted people. The thing that got me was the people's utter resignation to their fate come what may. Paul Michael Glaser, later Starsky on Starsky&Hutch, is the only one who's mad as hell and not taking it any more. For his pains he winds up in Siberia. Many have wondered why the Jews just marched off to the concentration camps two generations later. The answer in many ways is to be found in the characters Sholem Aleichem created from what he observed during his life.

Norman Jewison as a director filled the screen with this stage production. Small wonder among the Oscars that Fiddler On The Roof did win was for cinematography. The film also won for sound and best adapted musical score. The original songs were done by the Broadway team of Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick. Bock in writing the music had as keen an ear for the folk music of the culture as Richard Rodgers did in writing an Oriental score for The King And I.

If the role of Yente the matchmaker, a name as well as an occupation in Jewish tradition, wasn't in the original play, they'd have to have invented something to get Molly Picon in the film. The movie going public might only know her from such mainstream films like Come Blow Your Horn, but this woman who started as a child entertaining newly arrived folks from places like Anatevka became the First Lady of the Yiddish Theater. It wouldn't have been right to do Sholem Aleichem on the big screen without her in the film in some way.

Fiddler On The Roof is one of the best adapted Broadway musicals to the big screen ever done. And this review is dedicated to my late grandfather Isidore Kogan who came from Kamenets-Podolsk, a place just like Anatevka and settled here along with eight brothers and sisters in a watch repair business. I never knew Isidore, he died a week before I made my earthly debut, but he would have so loved Fiddler On The Roof.
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10/10
On the other hand, the good book says that this is an excellent film
BrandtSponseller5 June 2005
Epic in plot, setting and length, Fiddler on the Roof tells a surprisingly tight and focused story that has "universal" poignancy--in a nutshell, it's about trying to maintain strong cultural traditions and identity in the face of a continually changing world, partially fueled by the youth, that doesn't necessarily share the culture's values or self-assessment of worth.

The plot is based on short stories written around the turn of the 20th Century by Sholom Aleichem, who was often called the "Russian Mark Twain". Aleichem wrote a number of works based on his character Tevye the Milkman, who has seven daughters (in the film, this was pared down to five). They live in the fictional Jewish shtetl ("village", or "little town or city") of Anatevka in Tsarist Russia in the early 1900s. The stories are "slice of life" stuff. A lot of attention is paid to Tevye's daughters and their potential suitors. One of the prominent conflicts with tradition is a struggle with arranged marriages versus marriages for love, but of course, being set in pre-revolutionary Russia, there are also political changes brewing, some of which have a profound affect on Tevye's family and village.

Aleichem's Tevye stories were first turned into a Broadway musical, which began its initial run in 1964 with Zero Mostel as Tevye. Producer and director Norman Jewison, who had had success with films like In the Heat of the Night (1967) and The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), and who was experienced as a producer and director for musical-oriented televisions shows, including "Your Hit Parade" (1950) and "The Judy Garland Show" (1960), was asked around early 1970 by United Artists to helm the Fiddler on the Roof film. To their surprise, Jewison wasn't Jewish. He got the gig anyway, and in August 1970, began an arduous shoot--much of it done in a small village in Yugoslavia that refused to cooperate when it came to weather (Jewison couldn't get the snow he wanted). He ended up getting a lot of pressure because the shoot went over time and over budget--this was one of the most expensive films of its time, which was an era of economic woes for Hollywood--but of course we know it paid off in the end.

Zero Mostel was out as Tevye, and Israeli actor Chaim Topol, or just "Topol", was in, based largely on Jewison seeing him in the role of Tevye in the London stage production of Fiddler. Jewison had said that he was shooting for more realism in the film, as opposed to what he saw as a kind of campy humor in the Broadway production.

In my eyes, Jewison ended up with a bit of both approaches in his finished film, but that's all for the better. Sequences like the opening "Tradition" montage are hilarious in their juxtaposition of a grand operatic attitude and the rhythmic coordination of cleaning fish, hanging slabs of meat, and so on. Yes, a lot of Fiddler is very realistic, but it's equally humorous and surrealistic most of the time.

The realism is largely thanks to the authentic settings, the fabulous production and costume design, and of course, the superb performances. The humor is a factor of the above with that Mark Twain-ish aspect of Aleichem's stories and the fine script by Joseph Stine.

The surrealism comes largely by way of the cinematography. Some of the visual sense is reminiscent of Marc Chagall's early work and his later, nostalgic depictions of his native Russia, and in fact, the image of the fiddler on the roof comes directly from a Chagall painting. Jewison saw the fiddler as a cross between a metaphor for the Jewish spirit (and this is explained in more detail via a few lines of dialogue in the film) and an actual physical manifestation of a spirit. However we interpret the fiddler, the shots of him and his presence in the film are certainly poetic. Jewison also gives us some fabulous, surreal, wide landscape shots, such as those of agricultural fields and the beautiful "wasteland" in which the train tracks are set. There are a few scenes set on the banks of a river, overlooked by a bridge, that are reminiscent of particular Van Gogh paintings. And as a more subtle bit of surrealism, Jewison had cinematographer Oswald Morris shoot much of the film though a woman's stocking--the mesh is very clearly visible in some exterior shots. Of course, there are also a couple more surrealistic touches in the plot, my favorite being the Tevye's Dream sequence, which features traditionalist Jewish zombies in an operatic attitude.

A musical couldn't be a 10 without great music, and Fiddler on the Roof has it. The songs are a marvelous melding of traditional Russian folk melodies, with appropriate twinges of Orientalism and the expected Broadway sound, but maybe leaning a bit closer to a modern opera. From that description, you might think that the music would be a mess, but all of the songs are inventive and catchy. They are seamlessly melded with the drama, furthering the narrative as they should. The choreography is excellent and it is well shot by Jewison. And Isaac Stern's violin solos are outstanding, of course.

Fiddler on the Roof takes an investment of time--it's three hours long, but it's well worth it. It offers great drama, great music, great humor and great tragedy in a beautiful package--you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll sing, and you just might break a leg trying to dance.
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10/10
A jewel in the crown of musical films!
Nazi_Fighter_David8 September 2002
Warning: Spoilers
'Fiddler on the Roof' is about a humble milkman who schemes to marry off his pleasant daughters according to his family's 'traditions.'

'Fiddler on the Roof' is about a simple villager who insists that without their old traditions, he and the other villagers would find their lives "as shaky as a fiddler on the roof."

'Fiddler on the Roof' is about a firm believer who carries on conversations with God, gently complaining about the afflictions the Almighty had put upon him...

'Fiddler on the Roof' is about a soft-hearted father and his self awakening to a "new tradition" which he experiences with his three eldest daughters whose actions call for reform...

'Fiddler on the Roof' is a powerful statement about the evils of prejudice and the importance of maintaining a warm and communicative family life in the midst of severe oppression...

'Fiddler on the Roof' is about traditional values at a time, like today, when there is confusion over those values...

'Fiddler on the Roof' is about love and fear, devotion and defiance, persecution and poverty, pride and dignity, sorrow and oppression...

'Fiddler on the Roof' takes place in the midst of a hostile and chaotic environment...

'Fiddler on the Roof' could be safely placed in the great tradition of film musicals... The songs evoke happiness and tears... The fiddler's hauntingly beautiful music came from the violin of the world's greatest virtuosos, Isaac Stern... Composer Jerry Bock and lyricist Sheldon Harnick captured the drama and conflict of the story from its incisive opening to, ultimately, the powerfully silent human circle at the very end... Their treatment of the music produced some outstanding hits like 'Tradition.'

'Tradition' is more than a simple musical number... The brilliance of this song is in its ability to introduce the impoverished village and its characters – from the figure of the funny fiddler to the pathos and witty humor of Tevye, to the creaky old rabbi, to the bright-eyed matchmaker, to the sharp-tongued Golde, to the indecisive tailor, to the audacious revolutionary, to the enthusiastic butcher, to the Constable who brings that terrible order – It is the solid center of the film.. Yet one by one, the traditions that the very poor dairyman of Anatevka and his people have cherished and lived are broken during the course of the film, as marriage are no longer arranged by the 'papa,' as men and women dance together in a public place, and, most grievous of all, as children marry out of their faith... The shattering of these traditions becomes even more intolerable to Tevye in the shadow of other dangerous forces which threaten to destroy the very life he is trying to preserve...

Under Norman Jewison's direction, the entire cast delivers a depth performance and a spectacular energy that brought smiles and tears to the audience... Few musical characters are so fully realized or so deeply engaging...

Topol warms hearts and evokes laughter with his deep humanity, wisdom and humor... He brings his own magnetism and appropriate world-weariness to the role... With his raspy voice, virile appearance, and alternating expressions of compassion and implacability, he reveals his thoughts to the audience, always quoting "the good book." He even shakes a czarist soldier's finger rather than his hand, and questions his loyal wife after 25 years of marriage on whether or not she loves him...

Norma Crane brings out a concerned mother and a devout Jewish woman...

Molly Picon shines as the garrulous Yente, the village matchmaker who fails to arrange suitable marriages for the three strong-willed daughters...

Rosalind Harris makes her plain Tzeitel somehow beautiful... She defies 'Tradition' to marry for love rather than arrangement...

Michele Marsh is Tevye's second daughter, Hodel, the decisive young girl who follows an activist against the repressive regime...

Neva Small is both radiant and pathetic as the delicate middle daughter Chava, who unbelievably chooses love over family...

Leonard Frey is Motel, the young impecunious tailor who tells Tevye that he and Tzeitel had made each other a pledge...

Paul Michael Glaser is Perchik, the radical student from Kiev with liberal ideas, who asks Tevye's blessing, not his permission...

Zvee Scooler is the beloved Rabbi who offers this prayer for the Czar: "May God keep the Tsar...far away from us!"

Nominated for eight Academy Awards, 'Fiddler of the Roof' proves to be a splendid achievement with its strongly emotional songs that grows out of the characters' feelings...
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10/10
To life, to life, la chayim!
Lola-95 December 1999
I love "Fiddler on the Roof" so much it's difficult for me to comment on it in a detached way. I just think about it and I'm filled with emotion. (And I'm not the sentimental type!) It honestly depicts what it means to be human. It contains love, faith, family, friendship, humour, violence, hate, prejudice, change, vulnerability, joy, community, anger...everything. This film is a tribute to the Jewish people, but you don't have to be Jewish to enjoy it. It's so rich that everyone can identify with it, and learn from it.

As for the music, all the songs fit in naturally and stand on their own as classics. "Matchmaker, Matchmaker," "Sunrise, Sunset," "If I Were A Rich Man" - need I say more? When Hodel sings "Far From the Home I Love" it's tissue time. They're all so beautiful! If you usually find it hard to take when characters in musicals suddenly burst into song, don't worry, in this film it's so seamless you can't imagine them communicating any other way. The music makes it easier for them to say things they normally wouldn't in conversation.

The characters are so real and down-to-earth. They're strong, hard-working people, who have their priorities straight. I can't write about FOTR without mentioning Tevye - the centre of this whirling story, and a man who, like all of us, struggles with the pace with which his world is changing. He clings to the past, yet accepts what the future may bring. I don't think there is another film out there that addresses how insecure we feel with change. But hey, that's life. "To life, to life, la chayim!!"
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10/10
One of the best of all musicals
Spleen23 January 2000
The range and audacity of `Fiddler on the Roof' is stunning. By comparison today's musicals are timid, quaking things, terrified of frightening their audiences away however much `social relevance' bravado they may assume. This old musical is older than it looks. The film dates from 1971; the musical itself from 1963; but even then it was clear that it was the last of its kind, a delayed swan-song from the 1950s. There's sentiment, but no promise of a happy ending; humour, but not a trace of postmodern knowingness; realism, but and a willingness to indulge in fantasy, too. Musicals can't really survive without fantasy, and `Fiddler', along with `West Side Story', may very well mark the limit of just how serious it is possible to get without losing it. The songs are uniformly good. I don't know if Bock's music was usually so fitting, or if he happened to strike gold just once - not that it matters.

As for the film ... I only wish I'll get a chance to see it in a cinema, for the photography is beautiful - and it IS the photography that's doing it, since we're made to realise that neither the village nor its setting is picturesque in itself. Norman Jewison has assembled a cast not one member of which jars and makes the most of it. This film is quite long, and feels longer, but neither length nor apparent length is a liability.
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10/10
Jewish Tradition and the New World
claudio_carvalho25 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
In the beginning of the Twentieth Century, Jews and Orthodox Christians live in the little village of Anatevka in the pre-revolutionary Russia of the Czars. Among the traditions of the Jewish community, the matchmaker arranges the match and the father approves it.

The milkman Reb Tevye (Topol)is a poor man that has been married for twenty-five years with Golde (Norma Crane) and they have five daughters. When the local matchmaker Yente (Molly Picon) arranges the match between his older daughter Tzeitel (Rosalind Harris) and the old widow butcher Lazar Wolf (Paul Mann), Tevye agrees with the wedding. However Tzeitel is in love with the poor tailor Motel Kazoil (Leonard Frey) and they ask permission to Tevye to get married that accepts to please his daughter.

Then his second daughter Hodel (Michele Marsh) and the revolutionary student Perchik (Michael Glaser) decide to marry each other and Tevye is forced to accept. When Perchik is arrested by the Czar troops and sent to Siberia, Hodel decides to leave her family and homeland and travel to Siberia to be with her beloved Perchik.

When his third daughter Chaveleh (Neva Small) decides to get married with the Christian Fyedka (Raymond Lovelock), Tevye does not accept and considers that Chava has died. Meanwhile the Czar troops evict the Jewish community from Anatevka.

"Fiedler on the Roof" is a wonderful musical for the whole family about Jewish tradition and the new world. The performances are top-notch and this film has been nominated and won several awards, including Best Cinematography, Best Music Scoring Adaptation and Original Song Score and Best Sound. The songs are magnificent and my favorite is "Sunrise Sunset" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLLEBAQLZ3Q).

The sequence when Tevye asks Golde whether she loves him or not is delightful. Despite the 181 minutes running time with Intermission, the viewer does not fell the time passing by in this marvelous film. My vote is ten.

Title (Brazil): "Um Violinista no Telhado" ("A Fiedler on the Roof")
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From a Goy: One of the best films ever made.
RT Firefly3 November 2001
Let me say up front, I am not predisposed to enjoy a movie like this. On the contrary, as a straight WASP, the last thing I want to watch is a broadway musical or a bunch of Jews 'kavetching' about how bad they have it. That is definitely NOT what this film is about. Though the subject matter is Jewish, to say it is a Jewish film would grossly limit it's significance. It is about the human experience. Any one who has felt pain and persecution will relate to it. Therefore I say every human should love this film. It has an indomitable optimism and remarkable pathos that causes the viewer to empathize with the characters, namely Reb Tevye, played by Topol in arguably one of the finest dramatic performances ever. Considering the lack of success Topol has had with the rest of his career it would literally seem he was born to play this part. This film will most likely not be enjoyable for those looking for spoon fed, mindless entertainment or titillation, but for anyone who appreciates the beautiful things in life, it is high art. I recommend you set aside an undisturbed block of time, (use the can first, it's three hours long) when you are feeling relaxed, eat some good homemade soup and watch this masterpiece. Perfect casting, cinematography, pacing, art direction, wardrobe and best of all, an exquisite soundtrack by the great, and very young, John Williams. Listen to this movie on a powerful sound system and it will sweep you into each musical number. Especially (my favorite) the bar room dance scene. Fiddler on the Roof should be on every top 100 list that exists. Like no other movie I can think of, 'Fiddler' reaches deep into the heart and begs one to look at what things in life are worth living for and dying for.
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8/10
A Musical "Tradition!"
EmperorNortonII27 June 2004
"Fiddler On the Roof" is the stage-to-screen adaptation of the famous musical. It tells the story of Tevye, a poor Jewish milkman in the tiny Russian village of Anatevka. This role is played by Topol, who played the character onstage in the London production of "Fiddler." We see him as a man mired in traditions, but struggling between his devout faith and the changing times when three of his daughters feel the urge to marry. The movie is beautifully shot, and tempers the story, which deals with the harsh realities of Jewish life in pre-Revolutionary Russia, with classic musical numbers sure to put a smile on your face. Between its incarnations on the stage and on screen, "Fiddler" will be immortal.
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10/10
Ultimate perfection in a musical, and of course TRADITION
roghache7 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Although I'm not normally a great fan of musicals...people on the screen constantly bursting into song for no good reason generally irritate me...this one's a masterpiece. Story, theme, characters (especially the main one, Tevye), and of course, incomparable music.

This musical is set in the Russian village of Anatevka during the early 1900's of the Tsarist regime. It tells the story of the village's Jewish inhabitants (Tevye's family, in particular), their traditions (and the disturbing trend toward departing from them), their hardships and persecutions, and most of all their optimism, camaraderie, humor, and especially faith in God through it all.

Topol is magnificent as the main character, Tevye, the village milkman, who imparts to anyone who'll listen his pearls of wisdom from the Good Book and has conversations aloud (sometimes musical ones) with God, complaining good naturedly about his troubles and of course the importance of maintaining, yes... TRADITION.

He's the father of five daughters and much of the story line revolves around the older three, who reject the old customs of the Matchmaker, Yente, and insist on choosing their own most unsuitable husbands... Tzeitel, who prefers the poor, shy, awkward but endearing tailor, Motel, to the much older, wealthy, ruddy faced butcher (Lazar Wolf) selected for her by her father; Hodel, who chooses a student activist, Perchik, even if it means exile in Siberia; and Chava, who defies her father by marrying a Gentile, Fyedka, in an Orthodox Christian Church. Teyve loves his daughters and always tries to see their choices from the alternate, optimistic side ("on the other hand"...), but some traditions are too difficult to see broken. The issue of Judaism notwithstanding, like all parents of faith even today, Tevye finds it much easier to deal with his son-in-law's economic or political unsuitability than with major religious differences.

My personal favorite scenes are of Tzeitel's wedding...the magnificent cinematography, the beautiful candle lit procession, the solemnity of the sacred marriage vows under the Jewish canopy, the bride supposedly plain but absolutely radiant, the traditional breaking of the wine glass by the groom, all to the moving strains (tears fill my eyes even now) of the immortal "Sunrise, Sunset" which asks the timeless question of every parent at their offspring's wedding...where has the time gone? how did my child grow up so quickly?

This film touchingly depicts the close knit village life (where everyone knows everyone else's business) but especially in relation to the threatening external forces, the pogroms of Pre Revolutionary Russia. Racial prejudice against these Jewish villagers is an ongoing theme, and nowhere is this more dramatically and touchingly revealed than at Tzeitel's wedding reception. I won't give away the details, but your emotional response will be outrage. It's a picture that's worth a thousand words. Lots of humor, too, especially in the interactions between Tevye and his devout, long-suffering wife, Golde. Now, this is a couple that knows the true meaning of love. For me, the funniest scene in this movie was the sewing machine, absolutely precious.

Wonderful music of course throughout. The "fiddler on the roof" plays his hauntingly beautiful strains, especially effective during the moving, emotional ending. All the songs in this picture are catchy but, unlike most ditsy musicals, also have deep meaning. Everyone seeing this movie at the theatre left humming the incomparable, lively "If I Were a Rich Man". In fact, they're probably humming it still.

If you haven't yet seen this musical...and you must be one of the few who haven't...then you absolutely MUST see it. Make sure your kids see it. It's just not acceptable to go through life without the benefit of Teyve's wisdom, and whether you can carry a tune or not, you'll be singing some of these songs in the shower for the rest of your life.
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10/10
A musical for the ages
johno-2120 March 2006
I saw this film during it's initial theatrical release and have seen it many times since. I am not especially a fan of musicals and there are very few that I like but this is one of those few. Fiddler on the Roof ran on Broadway from 1964 to 1972 and received a special Tony Award in 1972 for being the longest running musical in Braodway history. In addition it was nominated for nine Tony Awards for 1965 winning eight of them. The popularity of the plays Broadway run spawned Off Broadway performances worldwide from professional theater companies to high school productions. Joseph Stein wrote the screenplay for the filmed version adapted from his book which was based on stories by Sholom Aleichem. The wonderful music of Fiddler on the Roof is from the songwriting team of composer Jerry Bock and lyricist Sheldon Harnick. Director Norman Jewison had never done a musical before and was best known for the drama In the Heat of the Night and the comedies The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming and The Art of Love. He would direct another musical after Fiddler in Jesus Christ Superstar but would find more success in Moonstruck, A Soldier's Story and ..And Justice For All. Veterna Cinematographer Oswald Morris who was familiar with musicals having photographed Scrooge and Oliver was known for his cinematography in such films as Lolita, Mobey Dick, Goodbye Mr. Chips and The Guns of Navarone. the film Fiddler on the Roof was immediately embraced b the public and received critical acclaim and received eight Academy Award nominations including Best Picture and Best Director and won three Oscars for Best Cinematography, Musical Score and Sound. the film's setting takes place in the Jewish village of Anatevka, Russia in the year 1905. I interviewed a 101 year old Jewish woman three years ago who was born in a small village outside of Minsk, Russia in 1902 and lived there until 1920. In asking her to describe her village she referred to this film and said it was exactly like what was depicted in the movie. I can't think of a better testament to the production of this film than having someone who lived in a similar village during the time it was set in to see her past in this film. At three hours this runs a little long and it's hard to capture a successful musical stage play on film but this comes as close as you can get. As a musical I would give this a 10 out of 10.
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10/10
The best musical ever made...
NoArrow26 July 2003
..."Fiddler on the Roof" stars Topol as Tevye, a Jewish milk man (and father of five) living in a small town in the time before WWII. The movie follows him over a long period of his life, mostly focusing on his three oldest daughters getting married, and Tevy's opposition towards their new husbands. Of course, it sounds a little depressing, but believe me, when you here the song "If I Were A Rich Man", you'll change your mind.

Musicals tend to become boring about halfway through (or at the beginning if they're really bad) because of overly dramatic songs or over acting. "Fiddler on the Roof" doesn't fall into this category. The songs please and warm your heart whenever they are sung, and the characters don't either overact or become boring.

Topol is hilarious and dramatic as Tevye, the dancing and singing father who speaks to God (and the audience) out loud. Topol narrates, sings, dances, and mingles joyfully with the other characters, never even coming close to slipping out of character. Tevye will go down in my book as one of the most memorable protagonists...ever.

The only thing going against "Fiddler on the Roof" is its monstrous running time. Not because it gets boring, but because whenever you'd like to watch it, you have to make sure you have about four hours of spare time, 9/10.
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10/10
topol a genius
torgulsmith12 May 2013
A beautiful film, every scene perfect, and Topol is unbelievably amazing. How can something so perfect be created...I try, in my own craft, but to see something so faultless, so perfectly manifested...I am in awe of such talent and ability. The art direction, stunning, But really, Topol carries it. A man of faith with intelligence enough to accept change, compassion enough to love through difficult revelations/revolutions.

Was a very significant film from my childhood, for some reason, for a nice Irish-catholic boy, but I remember it well, finding again in my fifties, with a better sense of history, aesthetics, morality, sentiment, religion, tradition, it touches me in a deeply emotional way
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10/10
Absolutely wonderful!
TheLittleSongbird23 January 2010
I know people have complained about the length of this movie. Yeah, it is long, three hours approximately, but there are so many things that compensate. Norman Jewison's direction is very good, and the film is stylishly filmed, with some nice cinematography and there are nice scenery and costumes. The choreography is great, energetic in parts and graceful in others. Next, the music is outstanding. The incidental music largely reminiscent of Russian folk music is a real treat, but the songs are outstanding. The beautiful "Sunrise, Sunset", the fun "Tradition", the idealistic "Match Maker" and the energetic "If I Were A Rich Man", all amazing. Also, Topol, what an absolutely brilliant performance. He put body and soul into Tevye, successfully mixing humour, wisdom and poignancy and the result is one of the most memorable performances in any musical to grace our screens. All the other performances are wonderful, I liked it all five daughters had distinct personalities, and Norma Crane is fantastic as the mother. The story is both tight and poignant, about a milkman of Jewish values, who wishes his five daughters to marry. In conclusion, wonderful and definitely memorable. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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10/10
Keeping The Faith
herbqedi12 July 2004
Warning: Spoilers
*** SPOILERS ***

This is a truly great movie that happens to be a musical. As with any great movie, it is a product that geometrically multiplies the visions and talents of its Director (Norman Jewison) by combining and extracting the best of the talents of his cast together with his technical crew members.

As a written play, Fiddler On The Roof, was based on a script that was a true labor of love attempting to extract the best pearls of wit and wisdom from the remarkably rich legacy of humorist-essayist-philosopher Sholom Alechem. The superb musical play was heavy on wit and magnificently composed and choreographed musical numbers capturing-to-a-tee Alechem's spirit and indomitable drollery. It had steep roots in the Yiddish theater and a perfect musical-comedy farceur to capture that spirit in Zero Mostel.

Four years after winning the Oscar for the magnificent "In The Heat of The Night", Norman Jewison, a Canadian Christian, had the gall (in many eyes) to attempt to extract still more from his movie. Rather than embrace the play's Yiddish theater roots, Jewison's movie is more about using Alechem's anecdotes and the brilliant music to capture the essence of the Russian town that Anatevka was at the turn of the century, replete with its distinctly rich Eastern European roots. In order to do this, he made the bold, albeit unpopular choice, of eschewing Mostel and his New York roots for 33-years-young Israeli actor Chaim Topol who was a smash in the role on London's West End. This still-controversial choice turned many off and distracted from the movie itself. This is a pity because I found Topol's performance astounding and at the core of what I personally consider the strongest and deepest movie musical ever made.

At its core, the movie version of Fiddler On The Roof focuses on the story of Anatevka first, using the trials and tribulations of Teyve the milkman and his family saga as a mirror to capture what is happening to the town, and as one of the characters notes to Jewish villages like it all over Russia. As such, this is the story of the unconquerable faith and basic dignity and humility of Job, extended not just to Teyve, not just to Anatevka, but to all the Russian Jews of that era who were forced to flee the homes they loved. Jewison captures the core and the essential truths of that unconquerable faith coupled with the overwhelming dignity demonstrated by these survivors continuing to smile and persist in humble faith even as their oppressors try to kick their teeth in.

To me, one of the most illustrative exchanges is when Motel (Teyve's eldest son-in-law) reflects, "We always wait for the Messiah. Wouldn't this be the perfect time for him to come?" Sympathetically but bemusedly, the Rabbi replies, "Of course we shall continue to wait for the Messiah. We will just have to wait for him somewhere else!" All at once, the drama, wit, irony, pathos, faith and essential spirit of Teyve's family and the village leave its indelible imprint on our brains. Jewison not only captures genuinely and unforgettably all the emotions and essential truths of Anatevka and the 3,000-year legacy it embodies, but creates a vital new legacy as its now inseparable companion. Yet, at the same time that the heartwrenching story of the oppression and exile of the Jews is evoked, and the indomitable spirit that keeps the culture and religion going is reinforced yet again, it is brought forth in a manner that allows non-Jews to share in the emotions and spirit as well.

Since I've given such a long review to a movie and story of great length already and have barely touched upon its many specific gems, I'll endeavor to be brief. Norma Crane, Rosalind Harris, Leonard Frey, Paul Mann, Louis Zorich (later of Brooklyn Bridge), the female actor playing Chava, the "Greek Chorus of Jewish townspeople" Zev Schooler, and Molly Picon (the last two being Jewison's concession to the plays Yiddish theater roots) are all outstanding and unforgettable in their roles. The score (yes three good songs were necessarily omitted -- how much longer than 3 hours would you like the movie to run?) is beautifully sung and played, with the instrumentals simply stunning. The choreography on the Bottle Dance is a standout. The art direction, sound editing, camera angles, stunning photography, contrasts, virtually every technical aspect of the movie I can name -- and I mean EVERY one -- is magnificently executed to augment Jewison's vision to perfection.

[As nothing is 100% perfect, I'll pick two minor nits -- unlike others, I thought Glaser missed the essence of Perchik's scholarly radical by half-an-octave and I thought the beautiful and talented Michele Marsh did not look physically like she belonged in that family. There I said it. OK, big deal, they were still more than good enough.]

I generally loathe movies of more than two-and-one-half hours in length. Fiddler On The Roof and A Man For All Seasons are my two most notable exceptions. If you enjoy movies made before 1980 at all, and have any sense of the essential spirit of mankind and what the human race is about, you owe it to yourself to see this extraordinary opus -- a true masterpiece that only adds to its relevance with the passage of time. 11/10.
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8/10
One of the All-Time Great Musicals
gavin694219 September 2012
In pre-revolutionary Russia, a poor Jewish peasant (Topol) must contend with marrying off his three daughters while antisemitic sentiment threatens his home.

Let me say this right of the bat: while this film may focus on a Jewish family and their struggle to enter the modern world (which may be good or bad), you certainly do not need to be Jewish to enjoy it. I always felt like this film (and "Yentl") were marketed towards the Jewish community, but it need not be. It is just a great story with excellent songs.

I loved the singing, the dancing, the story, the humor, the characters... there was really nothing I disliked about it. I was a bit surprised the eldest daughter was not Barbra Streisand, because they look identical. But, oh well. And I am also a bit surprised that the director was not Jewish, especially with a name like Jewison... but hey, he did a marvelous job!
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10/10
A Great Musical
atlasmb7 March 2015
Much was made of director Norman Jewison's decision to cast Topol (instead of Broadway's Zero Mostel)as Tevye, but his performance is the single most important factor that makes this a great film. Topol's portrayal has an earthiness to it that makes the farmer/milkman feel authentic. When he pushes his awkward cart through the landscape, you can feel his exhaustion.

Jewison also does a great job integrating the music into the action. Songs like "Do You Love Me?" and "Sunrise, Sunset" spring organically from the action.

The film's themes are universal in nature. Even in his small village, Tevye cannot avoid a changing world. It challenges his beliefs and threatens his beloved traditions. Eventually, it changes every aspect of his life. Finally, he realizes that what his daughter says to him is true--home is where your love is.

Virtually every aspect of this film is excellent, from the dancing to the cinematography. And the cast is wonderful.
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10/10
"Here's to whatever comes"
Steffi_P3 October 2011
Across the 1960s all the movie genres that had developed in the previous two decades underwent massive changes – the old biblical epics disappeared completely, the Westerns and gangster movies became almost unrecognisable. Then there was a new generation of musicals – avant-garde, burlesque-influenced, many of them brilliant but in a category of their own. And yet, musicals of the older format clung on for a surprisingly long time, rubbing shoulders with their more modern cousins. Fiddler on the Roof, adapted in 1971 from a 1964 stage show, is one of the last great classic musicals.

Of course, Fiddler on the Roof is not as old-fashioned as all that. Although the Broadway musical was long dominated by writers of a Jewish background, the idea of doing a show using Hebrew melodies was only really thinkable in a more flexible era. And the score by musician Jeremy Bock and lyricist Sheldon Harnick just happens to be one of the finest musical scores ever written, with a canny and emotional union of melody and rhythm with words and meanings. For example, in the song "Tradition" there is a verse – each with its own different melody – for fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, respectfully. Then the father and daughter verses play together, creating a lovely harmony while emphasising that this is a story of father-daughter relationships. "Matchmaker" features some incredibly clever lyrics, moving from dreamy thoughts of ideal men and working round to a consideration of the realities of arranged marriage, with such poetry that combined with the sweet, flighty tune creates a sublime and poignant beauty. There is not a single weak song in the score, and the whole thing is perfectly structured, moving from the mighty "Tradition" to the delicate "Matchmaker", to the bombastic "If I Were a Rich Man" to the haunting "Sabbath Prayer" and so on.

The director of this screen version is Norman Jewison, always a filmmaker of musical sensibilities. There is a lot of rhythmic editing in Fiddler on the Roof, perhaps a rather facile technique, but Jewison mixes it up with a lot of on-the-beat movement, a kind of choreography of everyday actions, often taking care to make each shot "agree" rhythmically with the one preceding it. In the scene where we are introduced to Golde and the daughters, almost every time there is a new speaker we get a cut, an angle change and a camera move. By making those techniques occur simultaneously Jewison lessens out the impact of each, getting that hurried, busy feeling without making it look over-edited or artificial. He's also very good at making the action slide gracefully into a song, such as the pan into a close-up that opens the song "Matchmaker". He doesn't need a massive shift in technical style when a song begins, so the whole thing flows very smoothly and naturally.

At the heart of the movie is of course that gigantic performance from Chaim Topol. He has a brilliant dancing style, a kind of mix of big-armed gesture and a really unrestrained segueing into the song. He could probably not do anything really athletic or precise, but his feeling for the music is clear. During the talking scenes, he's brilliant at bringing himself down to a level of serious contemplation, then suddenly bursting it with a comically angered outburst. Norma Crane manages to match him in presence, and yet with a more natural, sober turn. And Leonard Frey plays the stereotypical gangly youth, believably bringing out some forcefulness during his confrontation with Topol. Those familiar with English sitcoms can look out for before-they-were-famous appearances from Ruth "Hi-de-hi campers" Madoc hamming it up magnificently as the spectral Fruma Sarah, and Roger Lloyd "Trigger" Pack in a bit part as the sexton.

The music and the people bring to life a story that is wonderfully touching and ultimately rather bleak, as many later musicals often could be. And this is where Fiddler on the Roof really seems to span the trends of the old and the new. The triumph of love has of course long been the preoccupation of the musical, but the triumph of love over tradition does chime in very well with the spirit of the age in which this picture and its stage predecessor were produced. But aside from this context, Fiddler on the Roof's warm humanity, larger-than-life characters and beautiful music make it one of the genre's greats, a movie that can be enjoyed today and by generations to come.
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10/10
Without Tradition Our Lives Would Be As Shaky as a Fiddler On the Roof
theowinthrop14 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Solomon/Sholom Rabinowitz was probably the greatest Eastern European Jewish writer (his closest competitor is Issac Peretz). In the late 19th Century, writing as "Sholem Aleichem", he wrote a huge amount of short stories, novels, and plays. When he supposedly met Mark Twain at the start of the 20th Century, Twain said he was told he was the American "Sholem Aleichem".

Most people who know of him recall his invention of the character of the philosophical and wry witted dairyman Tevye. Tevye, in his village of Anatevka, is struggling to make a living and raise his seven (not five) daughters with his wife Golde. The short stories not only deal with his philosophical point of view of how God and man (in particular the Jews) coexist, but also how to get the girls married without the financial muscle to give them dowries that are expected.

Joseph Stein's play for the Broadway musical this film is based on reduces the number of the daughters to five. Actually only the stories of the first three daughters Tzeitel (Rosalind Harris), Hodel (Michele Marsh), and Chava (Neva Small), are given in greater details - because the other two remaining daughters have stories that don't quite fit in with the film's conclusion. Shprinze (Elaine Edwards) drowns herself when jilted. Bielke (Candy Bonstein) does marry a millionaire war profiteer (the stories went up to the Russo - Japanese War), and Tevye has a brief period of prosperity (though he loathes the son-in-law as a bullying ignoramus) before the son-in-law's fortune collapses. In the movie the two girls end up heading for America with their parents.

But Stein's play manages to get the spirit of Aleichem's stories across, so that the changes I mentioned are not too important. Tevye (Topol) can't understand why he is made to struggle daily and never get's a chance for some prosperity. "You have made so many poor people.", Tevye says to God. "I realize it is not a crime to be poor...but it's no great honor either!" There is a chance for Tevye when the local butcher, Lazar Wolf (Paul Mann) reveals he wants to marry Tzeitel. Tevye agrees to the offer of Lazar through the marriage broker Yente (Molly Picon), much to the happiness of his wife Golde (Norma Crane). But Tevye learns that Tzeitel is in love with the village tailor Motel Kamzoil (Leonard Frey). How Tevye gets out of the marriage contract is straight from the original story - it shows how useful the supernatural can sometimes be.

Subsequently Tevye faces the love affair of his second daughter Hodel with the young revolutionary Perchek (Paul Michael Glaser), who ends up getting sent to Siberia (whither Hodel follows him). And then comes the third daughter, Chava, who falls for Fyedka (Ray Lovelock), which ends in a peculiar tragedy for Tevye - Fyedka is Christian, and when they marry it is in a Russo Orthodox ceremony. Tevye's love for his faith and tradition - the backbone of Jewish existence that Tevye insists on - causes him to renounce his living third daughter as dead to the family.

The collapsing days of the old Romanov Empire are illustrated, showing the use of official anti-Semitism as a manner of controlling the situation (it really didn't help much). As the viciousness of the old regime towards Jews ends the film with the forced removal of Tevye and his people from their lands. And the only thing to do is head for America or Poland or Israel - any place but Russia.

The play/musical's numbers are well done, as are the violin solos played by Isaac Stern. Topol was a fine Tevye - although one misses seeing Zero Mostel's great performance there are some television sequences of Zero singing "If I were a rich man" that give us an idea of what he was like in the role. Topol emphasizes the even tempered, realist who is Tevye, who has a heart, sorely injured at times. He is abetted by his wife, a role well played by Crane. Molly Picon has a good time as that yente Yente, who is constantly trying to make a living making arranged marriages. Leonard Frey is fine as Motel, singing "Wonder of Wonders". Also note Louis Zorich as the local police constable, who has a "decent" relationship with Tevye, but who finds it collapse when ordered to force the Jews from the village (Topol puts him in his place quite well here). This film was a brilliant example of how to film a musical classic, and make a classic movie musical at the same time.
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Fiddler on the Roof
Coxer9913 May 1999
Strong film adaptation of one of the greatest musicals ever. Jewison beautifully recaptures the essence of the Alchiem stories with wonderful cinematography, editing and performances from Teyve, Frey and Molly Picon. One of the last great movie musicals.
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10/10
My favorite movie ever!
gokhan748224 February 2019
I have seen a lot of movies, and this is my favorite one. There is no movie that touched my heart so much. It is amazing in every way. It's amazing musical, amazing comedy, drama, etc. the movie starts with telling the importance of tradition in jewish community, and man who tells it has daughters that are in love and want to marry in non traditional way. That guy cant accept it but he cant ignore the happiness in the eye of his daughters. Wat is he going to do? Well to know that you have to see the movie. And believe me, jou will be glad that jou have seen this gem. I have seen this movie 7 jears ago, and it is still my favorite movie!!
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9/10
Superb work by Jewison
proud_luddite11 November 2018
Based on the Broadway musical, the story takes place in a small Jewish community in a rural area of Tsarist Russia. Tevye (Chaim Topol) is a poor milkman with five daughters, three of whom are reaching adulthood. He has difficulty with the more modern attitudes of his daughters while the community faces danger from the lingering anti-Semitism from outside.

Director Norman Jewison has done a superb job with this beautiful film which is exquisitely photographed by Oswald Morris. The camera movements as well as the framing of each scene perfectly add to the emotions generated by the story and, of course, those great songs by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick. Jewison also shows great skill with crowd scenes.

The first half of this three-hour film has musical numbers that are boisterous and breathtaking. The best include "Tradition" (with a superb montage that reflect the community's working and religious life); the title song, played by the title character, during the opening credits (with a sunset background to die for); "Matchmaker" (amusing and well choreographed); "If I Were a Rich Man" (where Tevye gets uncharacteristically lively); "To Life" (brilliant dancing); and "Sunrise, Sunset" mixed with a vigorous and lively wedding scene.

In the second half, the mood changes significantly with the story. The joy and humour (or at least as much joy as one can find while being poor), turns to sadness and melancholy. The song "Anatevka" enhances this dour mood as the preceding songs enhanced the happier times. The final sequence might seem prolonged but it brilliantly makes the heart cry with admiration for those who can still move ahead with resilience. The level of detail is very effective. Thankfully, the film ends with a medley of songs to alleviate the viewers' drained hearts.

The performances are mixed but mostly good. Topol stands out in the main role. His eyes alone convey so much emotion. And his occasional conversations with God are delightful. He is convincing in his portrayal of someone who is almost resigned to his situation but can also release an outburst now and then.

On social issues, "Fiddler" is rightly renowned for exposing part of the history of anti-Semitism. But it can also be credited for exposing the daily grinds of the working poor. And of course, the songs, the colours etc.....!!!!!!!!!

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT: Directing by Norman Jewison
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10/10
Great music! Marvelous performances!
dreamy_alina1 January 2012
Fiddler on the roof is that type of movie that brings you a sentiment of content and fulfillment given by the amount of knowledge accumulated at it's final. A movie full of color, art, beauty, naturalness through images and music, acting and screenplay.

What makes you reflect a while after seeing this movie is the richness of messages that it transmits. In my opinion, the movie expresses that rules are not always beneficial and that curiosity is good because it allows changing and evolution. More, the movie emphasizes the importance of tradition in the expression of people's devotion towards God.

One thing we can learn is that love doesn't take rules into account. And more, it doesn't matter you're poor, it is not wealth that makes us happy. What is the most important thing in our pursuit of happiness is love.

The best musical movie I have ever seen.
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A Gentile who loves the movie and always sheds tear
rugbylane23 September 2011
I LOVE this musical but I weep a little always for the Yiddish culture lost forever. The world is so much poorer.

I apologise for straying from the artistic merit to linger on the loss to Humanity

Nevertheless this film is a permanent record of the fact that we enjoyed a wondrous Yiddish culture in our midst in Europe but after a series of Pogroms culminating in the Holocaust the heart was ripped out of our culture here in Europe

The music, the humour, the humanity, gone forever from the Heart of Europa. Europe's loss

Irish Gentile
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A wonderful story
kaihuayang15 December 2004
The story took place in the village of Russia, 1904. It centered around the leading role, Tevya, who was diaryman. Tevya was a enlightened old man, he had open-minded thought and he deeply loved his three daughters. When he looked into the future of the daughters who were unmarried, he always sang the song "If I am the rich" very kindly, because he fervently expected that they got a bright future.

In the beginning, Tevya was trying to marry off Tzietel, the oldest daughter. The matchmaker found her a matcher in Lazar Wolfm the butcher. However, the butcher was much older than Tzietel, and she didn't love him. she loved a poor tailor, and they promised to each other that they would get married. At last Tevya said yes to them. Meanwhile the second child Hodel, and a poor student also fell in love soon, and they got engaged. They informed her father this and he gave them permission to be married. The poor student was arrested for demonstrating, and was sent to a distant prison, Hodel left to join there. Last, the last daughter , Chava and Fyedka fell in love. Chava told Tevya, and he was outraged, because she wanted to marry out of the faith. She got married anyway, and Tevya disowned her. Soon after that, all of the Jewish people in Anatevka got a notice to move out. And that's the end of the play. Ir's a kind of sad ending.
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10/10
Fabulous, moving movie/musical!
vargopenny22 December 2018
I found this to be a very touching, inspiring, heart felt movie. The songs are pure magic. This movie touches all your emotions.
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