Love and Desire, 1970s German Style

We hope to bring to you all with every newsletter a review of a classic, and not to mention awesome, film available to the FIU community through the Kanopy streaming service. This week we watched RWF’s Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, a remake of Douglas Sirk’s All That Heaven Allows set in a post-WW2 Germany still reeling from the recent tragedy and failure of Munich. Amidst this all, Emmi, an elderly Polish widow, and Ali, whose real name is El Hedi ben Salem Mubarak Muhammad Mustafa, but is nevertheless known by a name that has become shorthand for all Arab (namely North African) workers, strike up an unlikely relationship.

The two meet when a lonely Emmi enters a bar, ostensibly to escape the rain. Ali, a regular of the bar, is dared to ask Emmi for a dance. She accepts and the two start a conversation. Ali is a character who is marked with suspicion in the eyes of the German public; being that he is much younger than Emmi, his intentions towards her are not understood to be noble. The two are not free from the scrutiny of a racist public. Emmi at once finds herself without family and friends as she declares Ali her lover, and it is the endurance of this racism that becomes their ultimate test.

The film’s vibrantly colored and theater-like composition combined with its brechtian dialogue give way to almost a dreamlike viewing experience. What appears at the surface to be a threadbare interracial remake of a Hollywood classic reveals itself to be a thoughtful meditation on desire, national belonging, and the Germany that has yet to come.

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974) dir. Rainer Werner Fassbinder; 94 mins.

 Daga Nyang is a jaded college student who still at the very least likes to talk about film.