Ali: Fear Eats the Soul Literary Elements

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul Literary Elements


Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Leading Actors/Actresses

Brigitte Mira ,El Hedi ben Salem

Supporting Actors/Actresses

Barbara Valentin, Irm Hermann


Drama, romance




The film won two awards at the 1974 Cannes Film Festival.

Date of Release

5 March 1974 (West Germany), 31 October 1974 (U.S.)


Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Setting and Context

The action takes place in a city in Germany a few years after Hitler’ s defeat.

Narrator and Point of View

The action is presented from an objective point of view but there is no real narrator or narrative voice.

Tone and Mood

Tragic, sad, nostalgic

Protagonist and Antagonist

The protagonists are Ali and Emmi who try to be happy in a world that can’t accept their relationship. Because of this, it is safe to assume that the protagonist is the German society itself that still had racial views about certain people.

Major Conflict

The major conflict is placed in an internal universe and is the result of Emmi’s conflicted feelings. Emmi loves Ali but she also wants to be accepted by those around her. Those two desires collide and it creates problems in Emmi and Ali’s relationship.


The story reaches its climax when Ali and Emmi get married.


Emmi and Ali’s relationship problems are foreshadowed by the bartender and the girl at the bar who watches as the pair celebrated their marriage. At one point, one of the girls says that the relationship will never work out because it is unnatural.


On more than one occasions, the woman who sits at the bar tells Barbara that she is not threatened by Emmi’s presence. This proves to be an understatement when she starts to become jealous of Emmi and Ali’s relationship.

Innovations in Filming or Lighting or Camera Techniques

The film is very dramatic and the reason behind the feelings it evokes inside the viewer is given by the filming techniques used by Rainer Werner Fassbinder. For example, in order to emphasize Ali’s feelings of loneliness and betrayal after Emmi starts to behave strangely, Ali is filmed inside Barbara’s room from afar. The scene creates the impression that Ali is just a small, insignificant person surrounded by empty space and loneliness. The film has almost no background music and the absence of music only intensifies the dramatic scenes because the feelings transmitted seem to be prolonged.


The characters make numerous allusions towards Hitler’s regime and how the foreigners were treated under his rule. While the allusions are made in order to emphasize how much the German society has changed, it is also used in an ironical sense, point out that even though things have changed, the German people still had a long way to go until they could say that they had no prejudice aimed towards foreigners.


Krista’s opinion about her mother’s relationship with Ali can be considered as being paradoxical. Krista criticizes her mother on her apparent dysfunctional relationship while her relationship with Eugene is also an unhealthy one.


A parallel can be brawn between Emmi’s first husband and Ali. Both men are foreign and both men had to suffer because they were persecuted by those around them. In both cases, Emmi’s family disapproved of her relationship and while Emmi had problems with both her partners, she managed to live happily with both her late husband and with Ali.

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