RW Fassbinder left behind a staggeringly prolific body of work, despite having died at the young age of 37. The fact that he took just 2 weeks to make this film perhaps explains his speed. Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, one of RWF’s most renowned works, was a classic example of a social message film with a tightly bound core focus and the point of view stressed upon through the use of a distinctly melodramatic style. The film’s two protagonists are, Emmi (Brigitte Mira), an ageing, widowed and lonely German lady, and Ali (El Hedi Ben Salem), a young Moroccan immigrant. The first scene itself introduced the two characters to us and to each other, when, in order to escape from the rain, Emmi enters a bar and ends up being accompanied by the terse but courteous Ali to her home. Before long the two decide to get married, and therein starts their battle with the intensely prejudiced society in which they reside and in turn with each other too – the former because he isn’t one of them, and the latter because of their age and social difference. Brevity and succinctness were among the key traits of this film as RWF didn’t waste time in covering details of their love story. However, that was also one of the alienating factors as, despite being essentially likeable characters and their craving for companionship, one is still left clueless as to what triggered this cross-ethnic May-December romance. In the end, his motive was clear – portrayal of the innate racism, xenophobia, social conservatism, hypocrisy and narrow-mindedness prevalent in his country, and in all honesty, nearly everywhere, and it managed to be touching and thought-provoking, if tad loud at times.
Director: Rainer-Werner Fassbinder
Genre: Drama/Social Drama/Romantic Drama
Country: Germany (erstwhile West Germany)