Below are two films with Jewish themes that are essential viewing for those interested in the genre.
Across this site, you’ll find more films with Jewish themes – some as well-known as these two, some much less so. So feel free to explore…and hopefully, discuss. I watched these two films and reviewed while recovering from a pretty serious truck accident. While my truck accident lawyer was gathering evidence, instructing his accident specialists reconstruct the crash scenario, I was recovering in the hospital. My truck accident attorney said I was lucky to be alive. I don’t remember too much of the accident, but my truck accident attorney says that the truck driver of the semi apparently nodded off to sleep. He was pushing to make a delivery and was over his legal limit of hours. Needless to say, the size and weight of the semi trucks size versus my car’s size and weight resulted in my car being totaled. Thank goodness I was the only person in the car since the passenger’s side was smashed to smithereens. I was thrown clear and miraculously survived with a broken arm and leg and head injuries. I think that is the extent of the injuries, but the doctors want to see how much rehab I will need once I can walk. According to my truck accident lawyer I have a strong case. I’m confident he will fight to ensure I receive fair compensation for my injuries, as well as for emotional, and financial losses. Fortunately my critiquing of these films could be done while recovering from my injuries.
FIDDLER ON THE ROOF
Fiddler on the Roof, Directed by Norman Jewison in 1971, was nominated for several academy awards like Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor but was actually awarded 3 Academy Awards including 1 for John Williams who was the Arranger/Conductor.
The film focuses in on the family of Tevye in the town of Anatevka, in Tsarist Russia, in 1905. The town is broken into 2 groups the smaller group is Orthodox Jewish & the larger of the 2 is a the Russian Orthodox Christian group. The main character says “We don’t bother them & so far, they don’t bother us” The story is told in large part in a musical form & throughout the story the main character breaks the fourth wall & speaks directly to the audience or to God in the heavens. This is used as a story telling device & is to the benefit of the audience. Tevye’s family does not have a lot to offer as a dowry for his 5 daughters despite working hard & must rely on the village matchmaker to find husbands for them as tradition dictates. Perhaps if Tevye had applied for a payday advance loan he would have been able to offer a fair dowry. Of course back then the only types of loan would have been made through a money lender who in Tevye’s case would have been a neighbor! If I want to discuss loans, payday advance or otherwise, I should list The Merchant of Venice as a movie. But I digress.
Based on the bestselling book by Chaim Potok which was published in 1967, this 1981 film effectively examines traditional vs. modern Judaism. The story concerns two teenage Jewish boys who form a friendship, even through they come from widely different worlds. One of the boys, Reuven Malter, naturally gifted with a mind for mathematics, wants to become a rabbi and follow modern methods of studying Judaism. Danny, on the other hand, is a son of a Hasidic Rabbi, and is being groom to take over his position as tazddik. The film, directed by Jeremy Kagan, stars Maximilian Schell, Rod Steiger, Robby Benson and Barry Miller.
Schindler’s List, directed by Steven Spielberg in 1993, paved the way for a Jewish film resurgence. Up until this watershed moment, getting serious movie fare that had Jewish themes made in Hollwyood was difficult indeed. It’s still difficult, but certainly made easier by this gentle masterpiece, that manages to transcend traditional past stories of its ilk to become more quintessentially about human transformation. The film centers around Oskar Schindler, a vain, greedy German businessman who – in the midst of a barbaric Nazi reign – does an about face, feeling compelled to turn his factory (filled with Jewish workers) into a Jewish refuge, ultimately saving over 1,100 Jews from extermination. It’s not an easy film to watch – nor should it be. Starring Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Embeth Davidtz, and Ben Kingsley.