Ali: Fear Eats the Soul

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul ★★★★½

Top 100 Directors Challenge: 53. Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Emmi and Ali take their first steps together towards the dance floor of a dimly lit bar. A German woman feeling like an outsider in this mostly Arabic place inside her own country. A Moroccan man knowing what it feels like to be on the outside of a society. The first clumsy steps of their dance, out of time, out of step like the cultures from which they come. Fassbinder's introduction to loneliness is breathtaking. Mesmerising.

Soon the dance is over, and they see a little of each other, but it's really nothing at all. A glimpse of a life they cannot fathom. A sense of the complexities of humankind. Those around them stare with contempt. Without understanding. Until they leave together. Alone.

Loneliness is a strong master, and it pulls the two mismatched pieces of this couple inwards, yearning for companionship. Seeking friendship. Needing love. Many of those around them illustrate the deep-rooted racial prejudice within this society, ridiculing such a relationship as dirty or even abnormal, but the power of their loneliness drives them forward.

With expert framing, understanding of how distance from a subject can create a connection and a colour palette to cool the heated soul, this is a wonderful Fassbinder experience. With so much human observation and technical greatness on show, this is indeed one of German cinema's highlights.

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