Thursday, June 14, 2012

"Fiddler on the Roof" (1971)

“Fiddler” is potentially my favorite musical. It is not the flashiest, the most comic, the most purely entertaining. It does not have the catchiest tunes or the most memorable songs. It is, however, a story with tremendous humanity and emotion with which anyone who has truly lived can identify. The precarious metaphor that the whole story is centered upon—that nonsensical image of a fiddler balanced on the top of a high pitched roof—is one that we all live, even as we do everything in our power to ignore the fact.

The film explores the way cultures, through traditions, institutions and religious systems, seek to hide the fact that we are always on the verge of disaster. All of these things that we devise to create a facade of stability are flawed. We are lying to ourselves.

In the middle of all this denial, we have Tevye, a poor man who has one thing figured out. Even though religion and tradition fail the faith that exists behind them is founded on something real. There is a God who is interested in our lives and has a plan. He may not be the perfect Jew and follow all of the rules without fail, but he trusts that God has things under control. That is the sort of humility and submission that is honored, not with riches, health and a problem free existence, but with the strength to see things through the difficulties this world brings. The ability to stay atop that precarious roof called life.

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