“Ali: Fear Eats the Soul” provides an elaborate analysis of human proneness for ethnic prejudices. Fassbinder himself plays the role of a right wing lout who needs prejudices to aggrandize himself in order to feel he is worthy part of a greatest nation (Germany), a greatest political system (Democracy) and a great family with roots (that of his wife Krista – Irm Hermann and his mother-in-law Emmi – Birgit Mira). Fassbinder’s protagonist is poor, uneducated in liberal arts and doesn’t have any particular achievements. For him to feel superior over other people is the only way to feel himself as somebody, to have self-respect and be proud of his existence.

Special attention Fassbinder pays to the analysis of two aspects of any ethnic prejudice: directly hateful (repressive), and with an economic face (exploitative), and how each of them injures in its own way the soul of its victims.

Also Fassbinder focuses on people’s unconscious use of human sexuality as a compensation for psychological trauma – here as a result of non-recognition of a common humanity in individuals and groups targeted by ethnic prejudices. The analysis of the relationships between Ali and Emmi and between Ali and a bar owner gives Fassbinder an opportunity to represent two kinds of love between a man and a woman: love based on psychological wholeness with a sexual component, and love based on the emotional need to have a sexual relationship as a compensation for a lack of social or personal recognition, for non- or under-recognition.

Contrary to the opinion of many critics, “Ali” is not a weepy but a serious research by the way of ascetic dramatization into common psychological roots of xenophobia in social and personal relations.

In a system where social prejudices are rooted in the psychological habits and when it’s difficult to know where they are originate – in the political system or in individual souls, any person who tries to liberate him/herself from their compulsiveness and stop to behave as a prejudiced has to be ready to go through social trauma and, in this sense, to become a sort of a “revolutionary” – to act exceptionally. When Emmi Kurowsky and Ali started a relationship they didn’t know how much courage it will take for her to pursue it and for him to overcome his emotional injuries and not to become resentful.

“Ali…” is a film about the rich spiritual potentials of ordinary people awakened in them by the cruel circumstances they are thrown into by the inhumanity of an exploitative political system and inhumane but widespread emotional prejudices.

Brigitte Mira’s acting is iconic and El hedi ben Salem’s extends itself into the visual imagery with a naturalness and genuineness.

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Emmi’s son in law (played by Fassbinder) and her daughter (his wife – Irm Hermann) are laughing at the “real reason” why Emmi wants to marry Ali.

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Emmi and Ali take first shy steps towards one another while being permanently afraid of the negative reaction of her children, coworkers, friends and neighbors.

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Ali observed by Emmi’s love

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Here we see the reactions of Emmi’s children on the couple’s announcement of their decision to get married. The composition of the shot emphasizes the reason of their frustration – they are unconsciously afraid that if their mother will marry, they’ll become in her eyes like a non-significant Lilliputians – in comparison with her husband’s influence (represented by Ali’s giant hand of masculine power).

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Ali is slapping himself over and over again for allowing himself emotional alienation from Emmi – as his revenge…

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…for xenophobic and exploitative reactions on him by her friends

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Ali and Emmi “trapped” by the surveillant gaze of their neighbors

Posted Oct 25 2010 –   Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s “Ali: Fear Eats the Soul”* (1974) – The Trauma of Non-recognition of Humanity in the Foreign Workers in Germany, the “Legal and Illegal” Emigrants in US and American Working Population by Acting-Out Politics