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Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (The Criterion Collection)


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Product Details

  • Actors: Anita Bucher, El Hedi ben Salem, Irm Hermann, Elma Karlowa, Gusti Kreissl
  • Directors: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: German (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: June 24, 2003
  • Run Time: 94 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000093NQY
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #92,341 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Introduction by director Todd Haynes
  • Interviews with actress Brigitte Mira and editor Thea Eymesz
  • Short film Fear is the Soul (2002)
  • Signs of Vigourous Life: New German Cinema, a 35-minute documentary from the BBC
  • Excerpt from The American Soldier starring Margarethe Von Trotta

Editorial Reviews

Rainer Werner Fassbinder, already the director of almost twenty films by the age of 29, paid homage to his cinematic hero, Douglas Sirk, with this updated version of Sirk's All That Heaven Allows. Lonely widow Emmi Kurowsky (Brigitte Mira) meets Arab worker Ali (El Hedi ben Salem) in a bar during a rainstorm. To their own surprise (and to the shock of family, colleagues, and drinking buddies) they fall in love. In Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Angst essen seele auf), Fassbinder expertly uses the emotional power of the melodrama to underscore the racial tensions threatening German culture.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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See all 30 customer reviews
The pace he creates has a unique minimalistic quality and maintains an effortless flow throughout the entire film.
Christopher Langford
This is a sharp look at racism but also at the human desire for happiness and the lengths one will go to avoid the loneliness and fear that ‘eats the soul’.
Andrew Ellington
This is a film about a much older German cleaning woman, Emmi, and a younger Arab man, Ali, who meet and fall in love with each other.
S. Smith-Peter

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Kim Anehall on February 12, 2004
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Ali: Fear Eats the Soul is a wonderful story with a strong socioeconomic message that can be compared to Douglas Sirk's All That Heaven Allows (1956) and Far From Heaven (2002) by Todd Haynes where an older woman loves a younger man from a different ethnic group. Fassbinder's film takes place in Munich in the shadow of the 1972 Olympics when Arab terrorists took part of the Israel Olympic team hostage, which ended in a blood bath. Nevertheless, Ali: Fear Eats the Soul is a completely unrelated story to the bloodshed that took place in 1972 as it is told around Ali, a Moroccan guest worker, and Emmi, an older German woman, who fall in love with one another. Ali and Emmi come across each other at a local Arabian bar as Emmi seeks shelter from the rain outside. Ali and Emmi dance, converse, and Emmi invites Ali home for a nightcap as she is suffering from loneliness. Together they have to confront prejudice and racism as their relationship progresses since Ali looks and speaks differently than the German people around them. During their struggle they decide to go on a short vacation in order to escape the intolerance that surrounded them and as they come back Ali and Emmi begin to have their own doubts of their relationship. Fassbinder's film is a brilliant story and it uses some interesting cinematography that elevates the cinematic experience. However, the sound quality of the dialogues removes the realistic tone of the environment which sounds recorded and the characters are sometimes awkwardly portrayed by the cast. Nevertheless, Fassbinder created a truly unique cinematic experience as he colors the environment with his own touch and it leaves the audience with a great feeling.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Turfseer on July 23, 2012
Format: DVD
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Werner Fassbinder's 'Ali: Fear Eats the Soul' is loosely based on American director Douglas Sirk's 1955 soap opera, 'All That Heaven Allows'. Where Sirk's tale is about a middle class suburban housewife falling for a lower-class gardener who she employs, Fassbinder has bigger fish to fry. His tale focuses on Emmi, a 60ish West German cleaning woman who one day strays into a bar populated by Moroccan immigrants and ends up dancing with Ali, a dark-skinned Moroccan who works at an auto body shop. Fassbinder's strategy is to expose a deeply prejudiced German society who react poorly to Emmi and Ali, after they end up as a couple.

For awhile, Emmi is the true hero of the piece, as she endures all kinds of rejection from friends and family, who can't stomach the idea of a good German woman shacking up with (in their eyes) a 'lowly' Arab. The hostility is so intense from the German side that one wonders if Fassbinder has created a coterie of bad stereotypes. Fassbinder himself plays Emmi's son-in-law, a dyed in the wool neo-Nazi if there ever was one and his hatred of all immigrants may represent the bigoted voice of a certain group of reactionaries that still probably exist today, all over Europe. But when one of Emmi's sons smashes a TV set in their first encounter with Ali and they all walk out (including Emmi's daughter and other son) and vow never to talk to the mother again, it's a little too much. The same goes for Emmi's gossipy neighbors and the grocer who Emmi has patronized for years--they too end up shunning her after meeting Ali for the first time.
Read more ›
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Galina on January 11, 2007
Format: DVD
This powerful and gentle film tells the story of love and marriage of Emmi, a 60+ widowed German cleaning lady and Ali, a Moroccan immigrant mechanic who is more than 20 (I think close to 30) years her younger. Their affair and the decision to marry shocked everyone who knew Emmi: her grown children, her neighbors, coworkers (mostly, middle-aged widows as herself) and even the owner of a neighborhood grocery shop where she has been a loyal customer for years. The way clever and observant Fassbinder looks at their struggle to keep the relationship is deeply pessimistic - the couple could survive the obstacles that society would create for them. They can survive disapproval, misunderstanding and prejudice but at the very moment they think all problems are in the past, they find the emptiness inside and two lonely hearts together are even worse than one. The more I think of it the more I realize that "Ali: Fear Eats the Soul" is among the best, the most poignant, gentlest and heartbreaking descriptions of unavailability for happiness ever filmed. What makes the movie even more poignant is the fact that both Fassbinder and El Hedi ben Salem, the man whom Fassbinder loved and who played Ali committed suicide in the same year, Fassbinder - a few weeks after El Hedi. The film is also a love letter to El Hedi. In one of the film's most moving scene, Emmi looks at the man with whom she so suddenly and desperately fell in love with admiration, longing, and wise sadness while he dries himself after the shower. It is not only Emmi looks at Ali, it is Rainer looks with love and affection at the man he loved through the lenses of his camera.

4.5/5
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