Ali: Fear Eats the Soul

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul ★★★★

That was about time. My first Fassbinder film!

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul is an uncompromising look at racism in West Germany in the 1970s. Not even thirty years after the end of World War II Fassbinder zooms in on the racial judgements from white Germans against Moroccan and Turkish immigrants. The honest and hard-working immigrants are frequently described as lazy, filthy and dangerous. Without clear reasons, except for their different cultural background. In that sense, Ali: Fear Eats the Soul is a painful film to look at. Even more so when taking into account that today there's various political parties in Europe that specifically target people with a Moroccan and Turkish background as their scapegoat.

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul is more than a bleak portrait of racism, though. It also shows hope. That begins with the two main characters in the film that unexpectably fall in love. On the one hand is Emmi Kurowski, a lonely cleaning lady in her 60s and, on the other hand, the Moroccan immigrant Ali, who is about twenty years younger. They fill the empty places in each others' hearts and end up getting married. Emmi and Ali are the living proof that wildely different cultures can unite. Unfortunately, all the white Germans around them despise the relationship of the two, simply because these Germans are devoid of emotional intelligence. They cut all connections. Only in the third act do these people seek contact with the two protagonists again, be it only for their own goodwill; a shop owner that wants his customer back, Emmi's son needs a babysitter, etc. I am not certain on this, but does Fassbinder want to show us that the end justifies the means? that accepting others for whatever reasons is better than not accepting others at all? I am not sure, but it could be a logical first step in a long process.

One quick final paragraph on style. It's hard to believe that Ali: Fear Eats the Soul was shot on low budget in very short time, because the film is simply gorgeous. Fassbinder's theater career is obvious. With a static camera Fassbinder observes his characters from a certain distance. It appears as if he is really studying his characters. This is also apparent in the framing (shooting from behind a wall, frames within frames). But the thing that has sticked most with me is the colour palette of the film. It's just perfect. Next time I will do an in-depth analysis of it, because I don't want to cut corners on this aspect.

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