Ali: Fear Eats the Soul

1974 | Drama | 93 minutes | German with English subtitles


Emmi, a 60-year-pld window-cleaner and a widow in Munich, enters a bar to get out of the rain. With the jukebox playing music, the barmaid, Barbara, tauntingly suggests that Ali, a strapping young Moroccan immigrant, ask Emmi to dance. Ali and Emmi begin to socialize and get to know each other. Even though Ali is half her age, they fall in love and live together. When the landlord’s son threatens to evict Emmi for housing a “boarder,” Emmi blurts out that he’s not a boarder–they plan to get married. Ali is initially startled by this suggestion, but quickly thinks it’s a good idea. They rush to the civil court and tie the knot.  When Emmi’s children hear of this they go ballistic. One son kicks Emmi’s TV in anger and breaks it. Her daughter storms out of the apartment calling her mother a “whore.” The neighbors shun them. The relationship starts to crack as Ali and Emmi  have trouble handling two different cultures. Ali leaves Emmi and resumes his previous affair with Barbara, the barmaid. Just when it looks like the relationship is over, Emmi returns to the bar where she first met Ali. He’s there, there’s music from the jukebox, and they dance. It looks promising until Ali collapses from his stomach ulcer. He’s rushed to the hospital with Emmi at his side. They have lots of hurdles to overcome to make their marriage work. Somehow, you feel they are up to it. After all, they do love each other.

Brigitte Mira (Emmi) / El Hedi ben Salem (Ali) / Barbara Valentin (Barbara)
Why Stream This Film?
 Ali: Fear Eats the Soul achingly reveals the ugliness of prejudice and hatred beneath the polite veneer of a Munich community. When Emmi’s neighbors asked the landlord’s son to evict the couple, he refused, saying, “they seem like a happy couple to me.” Too bad this view  is not shared by others. Even Emmi’s children  abandon her when they learn of the marriage. It’s a timeless heartbreaking story told truthfully and poignantly. 
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus): 100%
  • 75th Venice Film Festival, Winner, Golden Lion
  • Ten Academy Award Nominations. Winner: Best Best Foreign Language Film, Best Director (Alfonso Cuarón), Best Cinematographer (Alfonso Cuarón)
  • Festivals: Venice, Telluride, Toronto, New York
  • Best Film of 2018: Time Magazine and The New York Film Critics Circle
Although ALI: FEAR EATS THE SOUL was one of the first films by Rainer Werner Fassbinder to make an impression outside Germany, his style was already formed and his confidence unshakable. Fassbinder liked to add sudden, unexpected turns, and while in a lesser director they might seem like affectations, in a Fassbinder film they feel more like blows from the fly-swatters of gods.
Roger Ebert

Technically flawless, deceptively simple and avoiding excesses,  it is about problems that are timely and timeless in implications.


The performances of Brigitte and El Hedi Ben Salem are superb; they act with instant sympathy and charm and in their own way, they are the most purely lovable characters I have ever seen on a movie screen.
Peter Bradshaw

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