Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974)


Five years after his 1969 film  Katzelmacher, director Rainer Werner Fassbinder again portrayed the interplay of rapprochement and exclusion in his classic melodrama Angst essen Seele auf (Ali: Fear Eats the Soul) (1974). The love story between the cleaning woman Emmi (Brigitte Mira) and the Moroccan Ali (El Hedi ben Salem), who is about twenty years younger, in the social environments of workplace, stairwell, apartment, grocery store, bar and restaurant, presents racist patterns of perception and outsider roles in changing constellations.
The film was nominated for a Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival and won the FIRPRESCI award.
Thirty years later, Shahbaz Noshir made the short film Angst isst Seele auf (2002) as a tribute with the participation of Fassbinder's cinematographer Jürgen Jürges, film editor Thea Eymèsz and the leading actress, Brigitta Mira.
In her documentary Jannat 'Ali / My Name is not Ali (2011), director Viola Shafik reconstructed the eventful life of Ben Hedi El Salem. Her look behind the camera shows that Fassbinder and his ensemble were not free of paternalistic and racist modes of perception and behavior.


Source: Photograph: Peter Gauhe. Source: DFF - Deutsches Filminstitut & Filmmuseum/Collection Peter Gauhe

© Deutsches Filminstitut & Filmmuseum/Sammlung Peter Gauhe

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974), published in: German History Intersections, <> [November 29, 2023].