Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Ali: Fear Eats The Soul - 1974 film

Increasingly I have been drawn towards European art cinema, and in particular the simpler works with restrained production values, which make the viewer think rather than assaulting the senses with special effects and action sequences.

One such film which I watched recently only reinforced the direction of my movie-viewing habits.  This was Ali:Fear Eats The Soul, a 1974 film written and directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

Set in Munich, the film focuses on the relationship between a 60 year old German woman (Emmi) and a younger Moroccan guest-worker (Ali).  They are subjected to much prejudice and hatred, and Emmi is ostracized by many of those around her, particularly after the pair get married.

The dialogue between the two main characters is very natural and charming, and I found myself rooting for the two main characters (Emmi and Ali), as they are both sympathetic and likeable.

As much as the relationship between Emmi and Ali is endearing and touching to behold, the attitudes of many of the people around them are troubling and disturbing.  I guess that Fassbinder was shining a light on the darker aspects of the German economic miracle, and of West German post-war society generally.

The contrast between the humanity and genuineness of Ali and Emmi, and the rigidity and bigotry of other people is very stark.  The film also explores themes of loneliness, isolation and alienation. The settings are quite austere and bleak, exacerbating these sensations. Interestingly, and disconcertingly, many of the issues brought up by this picture are still resonant today.

In addition to the other merits of the film, the acting is of a high order, and special praise has to go to Brigitte Mira, who plays the role of Emmi.  Fassbinder himself  acts in one of the supporting roles.

There is some fine symbolism in this movie, and Ali and Emmi are often shown alone, with other people either absent or at some distance, as if to emphasise how they are alone, shunned by the rest of the population.

Ali: Fear Eats The Soul I found to be an absorbing and engaging film, the kind of work which really makes people think.

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