Classic Movie Review: Ali: Fear Eats the Soul

Title: Ali: Fear Eats the Soul
Release Date: 5 March 1974
Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Production Company: Tango-Film

An elderly woman, Emmi (Brigitte Mira), enters a bar ostensibly to get out the rain but really because she’s intrigued by the Middle Eastern music she hears. “Ali,” the nickname given to a younger Moroccan guest worker portrayed by El Hedi ben Salem, is dared to ask Emmi to dance. To surprise of everyone, Emmi and Ali make a connection, eventually deciding to marry despite their cultural and age gaps.  

The movie deals with the discrimination that both Emmi and Ali face from their xenophobic community.  Even Emmi’s adult children are outraged by her choice of partner. Things begin to deteriorate as Emmi takes on some of the prejudicial attitudes of her co-workers and displays Ali like an object. Meanwhile, Ali has an affair with a younger woman.  The movie is not without hope though as the couple are able to reconcile and seem ready to take on an unexpected challenge as the movie ends.

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul is an interesting blend of vérité and melodrama that gets at the heart of racism and xenophobia through a personal story.  There’s nothing “Hollywood” about this movie and it feels like the camera caught everyday people on the streets of Munich and told their story.  

Rating: ****