Ali - Fear Eats the Soul

Ali - Fear Eats the Soul is a somber German tale by Rainer Werner Fassbinder of racism in Munich of the 1970s. An older woman, a widow, happens into an Arab bar to escape the rain. This is post-1972 Munich, where the bombing of the Olympic games by Islamic terrorists is still fresh in peoples' minds. But this woman is Emmi, who married a Polish worker years ago despite her own family's prejudices. She raised 3 children with him before he died of an ulcer. Now she's ready to love again.

And love she does - she falls for Ali, a Moroccan worker with a gentle soul and a partial command of the German tongue. Ali is 20 years younger than her, but he falls for her gentle ways. They sleep together on the first night, and despite the hostility of her family, her co-workers and local group, she marries him quickly. They are very happy together, but the anger of all around her wear her down. Finally she goes off on a vacation with Ali, promising him that when they return everything will be better.

An in an amazingly bizarre plot device, things ARE better. Suddenly everyone who was mean to them before finds reasons to be nice - selfish reasons. The grocer wants her money back. Her son wants her to care for the granddaughter. The apartment-mates need help moving equipment. Emmi doesn't care - she's just happy that everybody is being nice again. But Ali is getting frustrated. He gave up his soul to be with Emmi, and while Emmi is regaining her friends again, Ali has nothing. He is still stuck with a foreign tongue, living in a foreign landscape. All he asks for is some cous cous to remind him of hime - and Emmi harsly tells him to get used to German cooking.

So Ali, who is a drifting reed through most of this story, drifts back into his Arab world. He hooks up with a female Arab friend of his who cooks the food he loves and who snuggles with him at night. He plays cards with his Arab buddies while listening to Arab music. Emmi realizes her loss and comes after him. She tells him it's OK if he has other women, other friends. All she wants is his love and his presence, to fight off the loneliness. And Ali admits to her that he loves only her, that he doesn't know how this got so confusing.

Then Ali collapses with an ulcer, just like Emmi's immigrant husband did. The doctor tells Emmi that he can't help Ali at all - he can only fix him for now, send him off and expect him to return in 6 months with another ulcer. But Emmi promises that she will make this work - she will reduce the stress so Ali is happy.

I really enjoyed this movie, especially in modern day times with all the arguments going on about gay and lesbian marriages. It wasn't that long ago that the color of your skin was enough to bar you from marrying. It's very scary to think that, with so many people hoping someday to find happiness, that we would put barriers in the way of any two human beings who have managed to find it, even if they are years apart in age, or shades apart in color.

Note that the movie is very 'stagey' - almost as if it was a play. It is deliberately being symbolic and not realistic. Also note that the actor that played Ali was the real life lover of the director.


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