Fiddler on the Roof (1971)

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Fiddler on the Roof (1971)

Fiddler on the Roof (1971)
720p BluRay Rip | Lang & Subs: English | MKV | 1280 x 544 | DTS 5.1 @ 1510 Kbps | 03:01:07 | 7,89 Gb
Genre: Drama, Family, Musical | Won 3 Oscars + 6 wins & 13 nominations | USA

Based on a book of short fiction called Tevye and his Daughters by Russian writer Solomon Rabinowitch (aka Sholom Aleichem), Fiddler on the Roof tells the story a typical Jewish family living the simple life at the turn of the century. Tevye (Topol) and his wife Golde (Norma Crane) struggle to match their three eldest daughters with suitable husbands from their little Russian village of Anatevka. Yente (Molly Picon), the town's unofficial matchmaker, has word that the local wealthy butcher Lazar Wolf (Paul Mann) has "cast his eye" on Tevye's eldest daughter Tzeitel (Rosalind Harris). She, however, has already nailed the young tailor Motel (Leonard Frey in an Oscar-nominated role) as her husband-to-be. With ever less desirable suitors baying for the hands of his remaining nubile daughters, poor Tevye attempts to hold on to tradition while addressing his children's blind passions. This juggling act, symbolized by a fiddler sawing out a tune perched precariously on a rooftop, has Tevye turning to God for guidance and some kind of uneasy reconciliation.

Released in 1971, the film version of Fiddler on the Roof was an even bigger success than the original stage production, which played to full houses for years after its opening in 1964. Joseph Stein wrote the screenplay from his own stageplay, and Norman Jewison, who directed the original The Thomas Crown Affair and last year's The Hurricane, was brought in to lead the production. Fiddler on the Roof eventually won technical Oscars for best sound, best score, and best cinematography. Apart from Leonard Frey's supporting actor nomination, it was nominated for a further four awards including best picture, best director, best production design, and best actor for Topol.


For sheer emotional content, few musicals can rival director Norman Jewison's Fiddler on the Roof (1971); an evocative celebration of faith, life and humanity made for the Mirisch Company at a critical juncture in Hollywood's history. By 1971, musicals were hardly considered box office gold. The overwhelming success of the stage play convinced the Mirisch Company to fund the project, shot on location in and around Zagreb in the former Yugoslavia and also at England's Pinewood Studios, incorporating real, as well as constructed sets ,and, extras who, for the most part, did not speak a word of English.

Relying on an interpreter for crowd scenes, Jewison and his company were besought by inclement weather that refused to cooperate, sending the entire production into a tailspin of delays that threatened to end not only the film's shoot but also Jewison's career as a director. Worse, the system that had fostered such grandiose productions during Hollywood's golden era had steadily eroded to a point where every film project needed to come in on time and on budget or face utter financial ruin for the company funding it.

Fiddler on the Roof (1971)

None of these internal stresses seem to have impacted the finished product, although readily Jewison was driven to distraction and occasional outbursts on the set. At the time the film was being made there was also a minor critical backlash to the decision to cast Topol as Tevye. On stage, veteran actor Zero Mostel had created an iconic character much beloved and embraced by audiences and critics. Yet, in Topol the producers and director made an inspired second choice, one that would ultimately seal the film's success in the annals of movie history.

Based on Sholom Aleichem's Tevye's Daughters, Fiddler on the Roof is the story of Tevye; a simple farmer whose seemingly idyllic pastoral life is turned topsy-turvy when his daughters all choose to fall in love for themselves. What sacrilege! Women do not choose who they marry. They are betrothed in arranged marriages made by their parents. After all, it's tradition! And in the tiny Tsarist Russian village of Anatevka, tradition is everything.

Fiddler on the Roof (1971)

Tevye is not a tyrant per say. But he is very poor, relying on his wife Golde (Norma Crane) to hire Yente the matchmaker (Molly Picon) to find his five daughters suitable husbands. Out of kindness, Tevye arranges for visiting scholar, Perchik (Michael Glaser) to tutor his daughters - then, an unheard of prospect for young women.

But Tevye also arranges for his eldest, Tzeitel (Rosalind Harris) to marry the wealthy widower, Lazar Wolf (Paul Mann), a man thirty years her senior. The match will ensure not only Tzeitel's own prosperity but also the family's. The only thing it will not guarantee is love, for Tzeitel's heart belongs to the penniless, though kindly tailor, Motel Kamzoil (Leonard Frey).

Fiddler on the Roof (1971)

Meanwhile, Tevye's second daughter, Hodel (Michele Marsh) has fallen hopelessly in love with Perchik who is also penniless, though he loves her dearly. After much consternation, Tevye relents to Tzeitel and Motel's marriage because he realizes that they love one another. Tevye's acceptance of this marriage proves the catalyst for Hodel's confession that she loves Perchik.

At first, Tevye is enraged. Gradually, he relinquishes his control on Hodel also, again because he cannot stand in the way of true love. Perchik joins the revolution against Tsarist Russia and is exiled to Siberia. Hodel leaves home to join him, vowing to Tevye that they too will be married under a canopy like Tzeitel and Motel.

The third act of Fiddler on the Roof is a tragedy of epic proportions grafted onto the intimate story of a family in steep decline. Tevye's third daughter, Chava (Neva Small) has fallen for a handsome Russian soldier, Fyedka (Raymond Lovelock) who is an Orthodox Christian. Tevye forbids Chava this relationship but she disobeys her father to marry Fyedka in a Russian Orthodox Church. Unable to forgive her this renunciation of the Jewish faith, Tevye disowns Chava who leaves the family commune heartbroken.

Fiddler on the Roof (1971)

Later, the Jewish inhabitants of Anatevka are told by the Russian provisional guard that the government has decided they can no longer live on their lands. As Tevye packs up his family and prepares to journey to America, Chava and Fyedka come to the house to declare that they too have decided to leave because they will not live in a country where such oppressions exist. Although Tevye shows signs that he may forgive Chava her marriage, he tells Tzeitel to go on ahead and tell Chava and her husband, "God be with them." This reconciliation pleases Golde and his other daughters. Tevye departs with his family down the lonely and uncertain open road with the fiddler coming up from behind, playing the 'tradition' song.

In theme, sentiment and character study, Fiddler on the Roof is unlike any other musical before or since. On stage its social critique was a superbly rendered history of injustices that shared in equal portions in memorable song, dance and melodrama. On film, this precarious balancing act is more challengingly achieved by Jewison, mostly through the sublime performances of his central cast.

On stage, the entire production was more a labour of mood than of concrete settings. In 'opening up' the narrative to encompass its Super Panavision 70mm cinematography, Oswald Morris creates a rich tapestry of tangible visual splendour that fills the eye, but ironically was somewhat criticized at the time as robbing the story of its more poignantly imagined impressionism. If the film does have a weakness, it remains Tommy Abbott's re-imagined choreography.

Fiddler on the Roof (1971)

On stage, Jerome Robbins created a mesmerizing tapestry of dance. In the film, camera movement largely substitutes and/or replaces this choreography, the one exception being the celebration sequence immediately following Tzeitel's marriage. Here, Abbott borrows heavily from Robbin's original staging and direction. Unfortunately, this pageantry is interrupted by Jewison's heavy editing and a camera that refuses to stay focused long enough on the dancers to fully appreciate their movements.

Nevertheless, Fiddler on film remains a memorable outing. The sets are startling in their genuineness, particularly Tevye's farm that actually looks as though it could agriculturally sustain itself. Sheldon Harnick's songs and Jerry Bock's music are strangely evocative of the period while remaining timeless and universal in their appeal. Composer John Williams assists in underscoring the rest of the film with orchestral passages that link the mood and weight of the piece and delivers a cohesive cinematic experience that is different, yet remains faithful to the original stage experience.
Nick Zegarac, NIXPIX
Fiddler on the Roof (1971)


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