Fiddler on the Roof
arrived in cinemas in 1971, seven years after the Sheldon Harnick/Jerry Bock musical about Jewish life in a pre-Revolution Russian village first gripped Broadway
. Based on the stories of Shalom Aleichem, with its potent mixture of sentiment and religious and historical context, it remains one of the most popular shows of the modern age. With the help of an outstanding performance from Topol as Tevye--the milkman with five daughters kicking at the constraints of tradition--Norman Jewison's captivating film retains a moving intimacy in its portrayal of relationships in changing times.
But it also stretches the possibilities of location shooting--in this case the countryside of the former Yugoslavia--further than any musical movie before or since. The villagers are played by the inhabitants of the area, lending a poignant realism to the vibrant crowd scenes. And the cinematography is spectacular, with Jewison's clever use of distance generating an epic feel that helps to explain the story's continuing resonance and popularity.
Topol's career-defining star turn is balanced by the warmth and sensitivity of the surrounding performances, particularly Norma Crane as his abrasive wife Golda. British sitcom fans will spot early appearances by Roger Lloyd Pack, and Ruth Madoc as the demonic butcher's wife, Fruma Sarah. At nearly three hours, it's a long emotional haul, but aided by some of the most beautiful songs in musical history, Jewison's Fiddler is ageless.
On the DVD: Fiddler on the Roof Special Edition is presented on DVD in widescreen with a Dolby soundtrack that makes a mighty meal of John Williams' Oscar-winning musical adaptation. The most fascinating extras are a making-of documentary that shows a youthful, slightly tetchy Jewison at work, and a 2003 reminiscence in which all of his passion and feel for the piece has survived intact. He shares a commentary with Topol crammed with vivid memories and context. There is also a photographic gallery showing the resources that were used to give the film its authenticity, and Jewison reads extracts from original Aleichem stories. --Piers Ford
Based on Sholem Aleichem's stories of Tevye who, together with his daughters lives in a humble village. Tevye attempts to preserve the Jewish heritage against all odds. Ukrainian milkman Tevye clings desperately to the old Jewish traditions while all around him the world changes, day by day. His three daughters marry men he considers more and more unacceptable, and the ruling Russian government's anti-Semitism threatens to drive him from his home. Based on the enormously successful Broadway show with great performances and unforgettable songs. Academy Award Nominations: 8, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor--Topol. Academy Awards: 3, including Best (Adapted) Song Score.
Featurette - 1. NORMAN JEWISON - FILMMAKER/ 2. NORMAN JEWISON LOOKS BACK/Original Theatrical Trailer/TEVYE'S DREAM - Norman Jewison introduction/ANY DAY NOW - deleted song/Trailers/Easter Egg/Storyboard to screen comparison/Original production notes/Excerpts from Sholom Alceichem's stories/Ann Weiss historical photographs and background