Fiddler on the Roof

I watched the first half of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF with my ten-year-old daughter tonight. It’s a magnificent movie —  tragic, exuberant, funny, heart-warming, provocative and ultimately life-affirming. It’s probably the 100th time I’ve seen the movie (not counting the times I’ve seen the play staged) and it never loses its power — and not just as a entertainment. I admire FIDDLER ON THE ROOF for the lessons it allows us to convey to our children, how it gets them thinking about things. Few movies today have that kind of impact.

I had to stop the movie several times to answer my daughter’s serious questions. We talked about what traditions are, why they are important, and why they change. We talked about our family history, about how her great-grandparents immigrated here from Russia…and why they had to. And we talked about racism and hatred and what freedom means.

She wanted to know why there are wars. Why people hate others for their beliefs or their skin color. And why we invaded Iraq. I wish I could say I had wise answers to all her questions. I didn’t. All I could do was tell her what I believed, and what I knew, and that she would have to come to her own conclusions. Tomorrow, we’ll watch the rest of the movie and she’ll ask me lots of questions. I’m looking forward to it.

12 thoughts on “Fiddler on the Roof”

  1. That is one of the tough questions…..what’s war? Seems like an extremely stupid thing when you have to explain it to a five year old. Had that experience myself about a year ago.
    That line is not designed to infer anything on the men and women who have to serve in them, it is simply referring to the act itself.

  2. It is a damn fine film, harking from the era of ‘they don’t make them like that anymore’… Mind you I say the same thing about the PHILADELPHIA STORY and HARVEY.
    Do you think in fifteen / twenty years time people will be looking back and saying, “Ah, they just don’t make films like KING RALPH anymore?”

  3. Fiddler is one of my favorites! I love the story, the music and the lessons.
    The best part about sharing a great movie with your kids is getting to watch it fresh, through her eyes.

  4. Great post — it’s wonderful to be able to share things with the next generation.
    That said, even though I think the movie is closer to the spirit of the original stories than was the musical (where the book was essentially a series of canned, if familiar, Jewish jokes with a very good score supporting it) FIDDLER in general makes me cringe because everything is so watered down and made more palatable and sugary (and of course, Perchik is the most useless character ever, even if Bert Convy originally played him, which I found funny.)
    But that’s a whole different discussion — what FIDDLER means to a whole range of Jews.

  5. I remember when the movie version of FIDDLER played in my home town in the early ’70’s, six-year-old me was annoyed that I was being taken to watch a movie in which I had no interest and which I thought would bore me. I was astounded when I saw the opening montage, with the shots of the Torah and the temple. Jews were never discussed on television or the movies (except as jokes); seeing a whole movie about the jewish experience was entirely novel.

  6. I was in the play when the college I work for put it on years and years ago. Did the bottle dance and everything.
    As a result, I really have a deep respect for the story. The second half almost kills me.
    Man. If I weren’t going to the Monk signing tomorrow, I’d have to rewatch the film.

  7. Didn’t bother anyone else that this tiny, poor shtetl in the middle of nowhere, had stained glass windows and gold plated Torahs? (As per the opening montage).
    Must have just been me then…
    I saw Fiddler in the theater a few months after my family and I emigrated from Odessa, then-USSR. It all just seemed somehow off…
    And for those who found Perchik useless, rest assured he didn’t live long. Stalin had him killed during the purges of the 30s.


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