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  • Writer's pictureEugene

Fiddler on the Roof (1971)

28th December 2019

Last evening's entertainment began by Anne welcoming and introducing the Circle Dancers who were dressed appropriately to dance traditional Jewish dances to traditional Jewish music. Members of the audience were encouraged to join the circle and many of us enjoyed the experience.

Fiddler on the Roof is a musical film with messages. It is not the usual fantasy story set to music. The singing and the music are delightful, familiar favourites, with most of us knowing the words.

Tevye, played by the wonderful Topol, opens the film, telling us how precarious life is in the village;  as precarious as a fiddler on the roof. The villagers keep their 'balance' by keeping to .... Tradition, Tevye tells us. However, revolution is in the air, times are changing. The young people wish to make their own decisions, particularly about whom they marry, and fervently wish to dispense with the old match-maker. Far more dangerously, however, the Russian Cossacks are ordered to drive the Jewish community out of their homes and off their land and send them trudging miles into the unknown with the few possessions they are able to cart or carry. The village has no choice and becomes resigned to yet another displacement but manages to season it's circumstances with stoicism, humour and hope. The Jewish humour throughout the film is uplifting, and lightens the bleakness of the raw political and environmental conditions in Russia at the time.

The film was long and it was late when eight of us sat down to discuss it. When it was made in the 1970s, it was looked upon as the story of a deplorable time in history, and at that time we couldn't imagine it would be repeated in the 21st century, and perhaps because it has been, so many times, the film doesn't feel dated. In fact one member remarked that it felt more dated thirty or so years ago. Everyone enjoyed the film and the humour. Anne gave us a beautiful example of Jewish humour - where there are two Jews together you will have three opinions. The filming was beautiful and sympathetic. In the first half the lighting was more mellow, softer, but after the interval there was a hardening as winter gripped matching the community's grief and break up.


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