Director: Norman Jewison
Original Release: 1971
Choice: My Wife's
My Overall Rating: 4 stars out of 5
All of us seem to be getting in on the movie musical game these days. However, anyone who has seen Fiddler knows that it's a lot more than just a showcase for catchy ditties. The story itself is a simple one. Tevye, a Jewish dairyman in Tsarist Russia, shares his life troubles, primarily the marrying off of his five daughters when he and his wife cannot afford much of a dowry for any of them. Meanwhile, the world around their small village of Anatevka is closing in around them, challenging the very foundations of their way of life - a sad truth which repeats itself eternally through human history.
Regular visitors to The Squid may have caught on to the fact that I'm very picky when it comes to musicals. I tend to put them into two categories: those which have strong music and those which have a strong story. My Fair Lady would fit in the former category, Singin' in the Rain the latter. There's only one I feel is equally strong in both: West Side Story, the best of the best. The power of Fiddler is the story. I like the music well enough, especially the songs which are most faithful to the Eastern European Jewish tradition. But Fiddler is the movie that it is for the story. One cannot watch without falling in love with Tevye, his family and his community. The injustices committed against them are felt by us all. From the perspective of history, we all know life is only going to get a lot worse for the Jews in the Ukraine. The end of the movie is entirely predictable and thoroughly heartbreaking.
This was a new portion of world history for our daughter. Halfway through the movie, we took a break for dinner preparation and I brought her over to our world map to explain about the Jewish diaspora and the pogroms in Russia. I think she got the general idea, at least enough to understand what was happening for the rest of the film. She says she enjoyed the movie. This one might be interesting to revisit in a few years after she learns more about the history.
It's a heavy story, but there's plenty of light, too. My favorite scene:
The bottle dance is pretty awesome, too: