ALI, FEAR EATS THE SOUL is one of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's finest films, a mordant satire that's also a touching romance and a powerful indictment of prejudice.
60-year-old German charwoman Emmi (Brigitte Mira) goes into a Munich bar frequented by Arab immigrants and dances with a 40-year-old Moroccan named Ali (El Hedi Ben Salem). Ali walks her home and spends the night at her apartment, then moves in with her, much to the chagrin of her neighbors and
grown children. Emmi is shunned by her fellow cleaning-women and quarrels with her grocer (Walter Sedlmayr) after he refuses to serve Ali. Ali and Emmi decide to take a vacation, and when they return, suddenly everyone is nice to them. The problem: the lovers themselves begin to have their own
reservations about the relationship.
Taking Douglas Sirk's classic 1955 melodrama ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS as a starting point, Fassbinder expands on its theme of social prejudice by making his protagonists different races as well. In Fassbinder's hands, however, ALI, FEAR EATS THE SOUL is not simply an anti-racism polemic. The
suffering that Emmi and Ali go through is symptomatic of the pain that all people inflict upon each other. From the first scene--a tableau vivant of the patrons in the Arab bar contemptuously staring at Emmi--the characters are all depicted as alienated outsiders, trapped in their own private
Influenced by Sirk's cinematic style, Fassbinder uses saturated colors to create split compositions, and constantly shoots through doorways, windows, and staircases to create frames-within-frames which isolate his characters. Despite Fassbinder's emotional detachment, the film contains a large
degree of deadpan humor and some incredibly poignant moments, including the bittersweet finale.
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- Released: 1974
- Rating: NR
- Review: ALI, FEAR EATS THE SOUL is one of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's finest films, a mordant satire that's also a touching romance and a powerful indictment of prejudice. 60-year-old German charwoman Emmi (Brigitte Mira) goes into a Munich bar frequented by Arab… (more)