Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Movie Review: Fiddler on the Roof

My family and I just finished watching Fiddler on the Roof for the second time. We watched it several years ago and I enjoyed it thoroughly. So we rented it again. Maybe it because my children are older or maybe because I am older, but on second viewing there were some issues with the worldview of the principle character, Tevye.

First, I will mention what I enjoyed about the movie.

  1. It is a well-done movie, especially for a musical. Most musicals are a waste of time. The songs are inane and often filled with innuendo. The characters are one-dimensional and the story is often weak. Fiddler on the Roof was vastly superior to other musicals. The songs are fun, but usually make a point and move the plot along. The characters have some depth. And the plot makes sense and feels real, not contrived.
  2. The men in the movie sing and dance.
  3. There is a richness to the culture presented. I am not sure how true it is to real Jewish culture at that time, but the picture presented was intriguing. The traditions were known by all and society revolved around certain accepted ways of doing things. I like this. American culture is impoverished, having almost no traditions and certainly not viewing tradition as generally good. Very few of us live in a truly distinct culture with distinct customs and rituals.


Here are things I didn't like.

  1. Despite the costumes and the historical setting, the characters think like moderns. Tradition is viewed as a chain that has bound us to the past. It must be tossed aside. There are really no guiding principles on which to make decisions. We all have to decide what is best for each of us.
  2. Decisions are made based on how one feels. The great tension in the movie is how the father, Tevye, will react to the various changes taking place around him. In the end, he reacts, not based on principles or tradition, but on how he feels about the situation. His daughter wants to disobey the rules. Tevye decides that is okay. Why? Because he thought it through and decided the rules were bad? No. But because there is a light in his daughter's eyes, which, of course, means it must be okay. I think his decisions are often correct. But the way he gets there is pure sentimentalism. In other words, he does what he feels to be best. The message is basically: Follow your heart. Which the Bible says is a really bad idea. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
  3. Tevye is a poor leader, especially in his household. It is clear as you move through the movie that he is afraid of telling his wife no. He is afraid of crossing his wife. He is usually pushed around by his wife, but he still must give the appearance of being in charge, so he is often loud and boisterous, yet in the end he does not lead. Here he is a poor picture of the true husband, Jesus Christ. Christ leads by love. We hear him, not because he will squash us if we do not listen, but because he has laid down his life for us. Tevye does not do this.

No comments:

Let the saints be joyful in glory, let them sing aloud on their beds, let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance on the nations, and punishments on the peoples; to bind the kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron. Psalm 149:5-8