Ali: Fear Eats the Soul

1974 romantic comedy

Rating: 17/20

Plot: In Munich, Emmi flees a rainstorm and finds herself in a bar frequented by Arabic workers. She orders a Coke. Ali is double-dog-dared to ask her for a dance and ends up going home with her. She has a crib that is uncrowded compared to Ali's regular abode. He has a bitchin' beard. They fall in love and eventually get married. Because of their different races and ages (she's far older than Ali), Emmi's children and neighbors and co-workers frown upon the relationship.

This movie was shot very quickly, something like fifteen days, and it seems like a pretty quick production. At the same time, a lot of the shots are set up so well that the whole thing looks meticulously planned. Fassbinder utilizes the architecture to help show the relationships and feelings of these characters. Vertical lines or sometimes frames separate one character from another. Railings, windows, glass, doorways, and other lines of furniture or structures frequently divide, alienating. And a lot of times, it's just space. You get a lot of scenes where Ali and Emmi are on one side of the room, and when the camera reveals the other occupants of said room, they're all huddled together watching the couple, usually with scowls, and very far away. I like how Fassbinders' camera shows that alienation and loneliness. And I like how there aren't any unnecessary words to show the emotions of the peripheral characters. Why have characters yell out their feelings when you can have them kick in a television or stare at the camera with those aforementioned scowls? El Hedi ben Salem, Fassbinders' boyfriend apparently, is an interesting presence. On the one hand, he just looks so strong and intimidating. It might have something to do with the beard. But in his context, he has this fragility that makes him, at least for the first half of the movie, a contradiction. He communicates in what, judging by the subtitles, seems like a broken-German. I don't speak German, so I don't know how realistic it actually sounds. Brigitte Mira (she's in The Enigma of Kasper Hauser) is terrific as Emmi--strong-minded but brittle, confident but naive. It's a wonderful performance. I really liked a scene where she checks herself out in a mirror. Ali: Fear Eats the Soul is almost deceptive in the way it tells such a simple story in such an honest way. If this is a "small" Fassbinder film that was made in fifteen days, I really need to see the "bigger" ones.

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