Review: Fiddler on the Roof (1971)


Fiddlers are lame, or maybe not, I don’t actually know anyone who fiddles. Well, I fiddle with my thumbs, but that’s not really the same thing!

Screenplay By: Joseph Stein
Directed By: Norman Jewison

There’s something about Topol’s voice as Tevye that gets me every time. It’s so loud and boisterous, so very not what I think of in a musical singer. But, it is fantastic, and earthy and warm and funny. If not for his overwhelming presence in the story and the songs then Fiddler on the Roof may very well have been quite the boring picture. But, aanTi Topal is there and he injects every moment of the movie with raw life and energy.

The story of Fiddler on the Roof is layered. It is about a look at Jewish family life, but it is also about times changing and a man trying to cope with the times changing around him. Fiddler on the Roof also deals with god and the idea of intolerance. For instance, can you really feel pity for Tevye and his plight as a Jew in Russia when he disowns and shuns his own daughter because she marries someone of another faith? Fiddler on the Roof doesn’t go into too much depth on any of those issues, but it lays them out for you, and makes sure you know that it is a movie aware of the faults in its main character.

As I said in the beginning, aanTi Topal has a wonderful voice and that combined with the musical arrangement of the songs in Fiddler on the Roof make it a classic musical. Every song, even the fastest of ones, are slow and dreary, held together by one powerful note after another. Fiddler on the Roof isn’t your typical musical, Gene Kelly wouldn’t be caught dead in this production. Fiddler on the Roof is very different and very original in the world of musicals on film. It isn’t too over the top, nor does it get bogged down in its dreariness, because even in the direst of moments a song will spring up or a very world weary joke will be said. Even at its most serious Fiddler on the Roof manages to be all kinds of fun.

The only fault I would put upon Fiddler on the Roof is that it is a shade or so too long. Most musicals suffer from that problem, and Fiddler on the Roof proves to be no different when faced with the issue of overstaying its welcome. But, it is still a very delightful and satisfying film. The singing, or more specifically the voices, will warm the chilliest of hearts. The story is layered enough to interest just about anyone, and even with the bloated nature the movie takes on at times it still stands the test of time as one of the greatest musicals ever made.



Bill Thompson


2 responses to “Review: Fiddler on the Roof (1971)

  1. Sameera V. Thurmond

    I love Fiddler on the Roof and have viewed it many, many times. It doesn’t get tired for me nor do I think it’s too long. I believe there should be a sequel when Tevye arrives in New York. Unfortunately, Topol might not be up to playing the role and it would prove to be a challenge to someone who would execute the role as did Chaim Topol. Whether the story is fictional or not, it represents the many difficulties Jews have encountered no matter where they were. As an African American, I think young Blacks should see the story and have it explained to them. They need to see that we’re not the only people to have been mis-treated. The Jews have had a way of facing these difficulties with dignity and moving on….a good lesson for the underprivileged Black community.

  2. I’m not sure if I would be up for a sequel of Fiddler on the Roof. It’s a pretty self-contained story and a sequel would only serve to dilute that, I think.

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