Screen version of the popular Broadway musical. In pre-Revolutionary Ukraine, Jewish fiddler Tevye (Topol) plans to marry off his three daughters. However, none of the girls chooses what their father considers to be a suitable partner. Meanwhile, the Russian Czar and Cossacks begin a campaign of intimidation against Tevye's village. Songs include 'If I Were a Rich Man' and 'Sunrise, Sunset'.
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