Ali: Fear Eats the Soul – A film by Rainer Werner Fassbinder

600full-ali--fear-eats-the-soul-screenshot On a thunderous night, a woman in her 60s walks into a German bar to wait for the rain to settle. The locals, a group of young Arab immigrants, stand at the bar and drink as they stare at the unusual German specimen sitting alone, sipping a cola. On a whim, a young woman dares Ali, a handsome, impenetrable Moroccan to dance with the lady. He approaches her with not much interest or hesitation, and she agrees to dance with him with equally weak excitement. But once they embrace on the dance-floor an unexpected chemistry creeps between them. He offers to walk her home, and when they arrive at her doorstep he ends up staying the night. What unfolds next is a Shakespearean love story against all odds. Emmi and Ali fall quickly in love and decide to marry. Beyond their difference in age, the fact that Ali is an Arab immigrant causes disapproval and revulsion from Emmi’s children, neighbors, and coworkers who cast her as a “whore”. From day to night, Emmi loses every sense of comfort and kinship she had established throughout her quiet life. But despite being ostracized by everyone, she tries to ignore the hatred and find comfort in her unwithering love for Ali. Brigitte Mira’s performance as Emmi is incredibly moving, embodying many women at once. She has the dreams of a young romantic girl, the disillusions of a lonely widow, and the naiveté of an innocent soul. Her eyes throughout the film are that of a woman in love: deep, glossy and dazed. When Emmi meets Ali, she becomes overwhelmed with adoration and the comfort of companionship, the promise of not dying alone. But after the magic begins to wear off for Ali, he strays away from her into the arms of another woman. Confused by his distance, Emmi begins to feel she’s lost everything. But people’s frivolity, selfishness, and hypocrisy is quickly exposed once life starts shifting back to normal. The neighbors conveniently use Ali’s youthful strength to help with errands around the building, and the owner of the local market welcomes Emmi back into his store after he fears he is losing business. Ali: Fear Eats the Soul is a window into the pettiness and irony of our society. It reveals subtle yet deep human inclinations toward hatred, racism, and fear. But there’s a ray of hope; at the end of this story, love is stronger than fear. In the final scene, when Emmi searches for Ali in the bar, they dance again holding each other close. Ali confesses he has slept with other women and Emmi, simply responds “When we’re together, we must be nice to one another.” They embrace again, finding haven in each other’s arms.

Review By: Lorena Alvarado

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