Fiddler on the Roof (1971)

Directed by Norman Jewison
Written by Joseph Stein

I had a ball with this film. I left it for last simply because it was so long that I never found a good time to watch it until I had to, but the runtime does not appear to be that cumbersome. Though it is three hours long, it has enough interesting characters and great scenes to supply the viewer with enough entertainment and thought to hold them without ever becoming long or boring. The story is of Tevye (Topol) and his wife and five daughters in a town in Russia before the revolution. They are a Jewish family and they make no reservations about it, but they are also surrounded by a great number of Jewish families, and some Gentile families as well. They go through the trials of any family, and especially any Jewish family. What makes this so great is the large cast of characters and often their sense of humor.

The film is a very funny one and I really appreciated Tevye’s humor as the narrator and lead character. He takes everything in life with some humor and it keeps him relatively happy and relatively sane at the same time. My heart goes out to him, having five daughters, but at the same time it is apparent that his family loves each other and when it comes time to marry off a few of the daughters, though sometimes difficult, it is done with love. The musical numbers and symbolism are fantastic as well. It opens with the Fiddler on the Roof and the need to balance on the roof, and in that balance, life can be beautiful. It appears that this film was probably a lot of fun to make with all of the humor and musical numbers, but it was also extremely beautiful. More apparent in the second half of the film, but the cinematography was breathtaking. It was well deserving of the three Oscars it took home that year. And it has a well deserving place near the top of this marathon.

Commentary on Anti-Semitism

The implications here are the pogroms in Russia before the Bolshevik Revolution. We have learned of them in our class and like most other forms of anti-Semitism they come without cause. This time in history was pretty bad for the Jews. For those that are unfamiliar, a pogrom is basically an unwarranted attack on a group of Jews. The military and government would come into their villages and ransack them, causing great damage and oftentimes death. These were sometimes followed by forcing the Jews to also vacate the village, much like what occurs in this film. The depiction here is unique, however, due to the relationship between the constable and the villagers. It may not come across near as violent as it often was. Also, it goes to prove that relationships like those are irrelevant when it comes down from the top for this to happen. Also that people during these times, people that knew better, would do nothing to stop the injustices that were occurring mostly out of fear.

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