Wednesday January 12, 2011 22:11

Movie #0037 – Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974)

Posted by Michael

Directed by: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Starring: Brigitte Mira, El Hedi ben Salem, Barbara Valentin
Picture credit: DVD Beaver
First Viewing

Synopsis: An aging German woman finds herself a pariah after she starts dating an immigrant worker.

This film owes a great debt to All That Heaven Allows. In fact, in many ways it plays like a loose remake of that film; both films have roughly the same plot, and Rainer Werner Fassbinder was certainly never shy about his admiration for Douglas Sirk.

It’s not a bad film. I’m not entirely sure it deserves a spot on the list, but Fassbinder was obviously an important director, and this is one of his most accessible films. It’s well directed and (for the most part) well acted.

My biggest problem with this movie is that there just isn’t all that much chemistry between the older woman and her young lover. There are a couple of reasons for this:

1) Brigitte Mira is just too old — she was 64 when the movie was made, and she looks more like 74. In contrast, Jane Wyman was 38 when she made All That Heaven Allows, and I had no problem believing that Rock Hudson could be sexually attracted to her. That definitely wasn’t the case here.

2) El Hedi ben Salem gives an exceptionally wooden performance, and lacks anything even remotely resembling charisma. This meant that not only was I having a hard time believing that he could be attracted to her; I was having a hard time believing that she could be attracted to him, with his robot-like personality. Apparently Salem was one of Fassbinder’s lovers, which does explain things somewhat. There’s clearly a reason why the man never acted in any films that weren’t directed by Fassbinder himself.

All in all, they’re not a particularly compelling or believable couple, which is kind of an issue when the film is essentially a love story. I can see why the movie is on the list, I guess — it’s definitely well made, and it’s entertaining throughout. If you can buy into the romance, you’ll probably enjoy it more than I did. Oh well.

Buy the movie on Amazon

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