Interview-Review: Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974) #KifKif

1) What is Ali: Fear Eats the Soul about?
It’s a love story between a lonely middle-aged woman, Emmi (Brigitte Mira) and a young Moroccan migrant worker Ali (El Hedi ben Salem). They meet by chance in a bar. Ali’s friends dare him to dance with this “old lady” and he does, but then it turns out that they have a lot in common, namely that they’re both lonely and melancholy. So they try to make it work, even though they know the odds are against them. Turns out that racism was still rampant in Germany and especially after the Munich massacre people weren’t that accepting of interracial relationships. Aside from that there’s also the whole ageism thing going on. It’s a great movie. 

2) Really? What did you like about it?
The way it portrays the relationship feels very authentic and very considerate. The film does an excellent job of showing how envy and intolerance can ruin people’s lives. I love the title, because it’s true. Fear does eat the soul. There are certain theories which say that you either act out of love or out of fear. That’s a bit extreme, but at its core it’s an interesting idea. Just think about it for a second. I also liked that even though the film was very much against racism, it had the courage to criticize and show a flawed character in Ali. Just because he’s the “victim” that doesn’t mean he has to be perfect.

Aside from that I appreciated the film on a technical level. It’s edited perfectly. It moves at a great pace and only about 90 minutes long, but it feels longer (in a good way). I’m also a fan of the framing in this film, some shots are absolutely gorgeous and the 70s are usually my least favorite decade on a purely aesthetic level. I’m not big on the grainy image quality and the mostly orange-brownish color palettes. 70s fashion and interior design also doesn’t really click with me for whatever reason.

But back to the film. I did enjoy the comedy in this film. It’s very funny in some moments. It has some great one-liners. I like movies that are about serious stuff, but still manage to have a sense of humor. Some of the worst movies in my opinion are the ones that take themselves way too seriously.

3) Were you saying something? ‘Cause I wasn’t listening. Anyway I don’t have time to hear you whine on about shit, so if we could just keep this going, that would be great.
So… On to the next question: What did you dislike about the film?
Well, the ending felt a bit inconclusive to me. I’m sure that’s what Fassbinder wanted, but it comes a bit too suddenly and I’m not sure what to make of it or how to interpret it exactly. Again, I’m sure that’s precisely the point and it will probably get clearer when I re-watch the film. So that’s not really a criticism. I’m actually having a hard time finding things I disliked about the film per se. I didn’t like that Ali cheats on Emmi, but again that’s not really a criticism to the film.

4) Got it. Moving on. Who would you recommend this film to?
I think since this is a German film and it’s kind of an art house drama, I would recommend this to people who appreciate true cinema and more than just blockbusters. However I think that the film and the themes it discusses are universal so I really don’t see who could dislike a film like ‘Ali’. If you’re a fan of director Rainer Werner Fassbinder of course this is a must see. If you love the Criterion Collection you’ll probably dig this and other than that if you’ve ever experienced loneliness or isolation or any human emotion really I think you can’t go wrong with this.

5) Sounds like you jerked off to this film… Is there anything else you’d like to add? Any random thought on your mind?
I beg your pardon?

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
No, not that. What you said before…

I didn’t say anything… What are you talking about?
Never mind. One last thing I’ll add is that, I’ve mentioned racism in Germany in the 70s, but I think the problem still exists today and not just in Germany. Europe in general is experiencing the rise of right-wing extremist parties that have some crazy ass ideas. I’m also always stunned to see people selling Mussolini swag and collectibles when I go to Italian markets.

To end on a positive note however I’d like to add a fun little bit of trivia. The German title for this film is Angst essen Seele auf. Literally that translates to: “Fear eat soul up”. Yes, there’s a grammatical error in the original title, because Ali’s German isn’t perfect, but I love that. I think it’s genius, it makes the title unique and in a way also personal.

8 out of 10


  1. literaryvittles

    haha I really, really enjoy your reviews in this format! Also, I get the feeling that I would really like this film. Have you watched Madchen in Uniform? And how do you have time to watch so many movies?!

    • davideperretta

      😀 thanks! I haven’t seen that one yet, thanks for the recommendation 🙂
      I’m currently writing my master thesis, so as soon as I find a job, I won’t have as much time anyomore.. My interviewer would probably just say I don’t have a life 😉

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