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Ali: Fear Eats the Soul

Examine one scene from either of the films we have studied, showing how mise-en-scène, shot selection, editing and sound contribute to our understanding of it.

In the first scene of Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, Emmi enters the almost empty Bar as Arabic music plays in the backdrop. The Bar is almost empty, she can sit anywhere, but she chooses to sit at the first table near the door, while all the other patrons are either sitting or standing on the other side of the room. This by itself seems to symbolic signifying the ‘otherness’ that Emmi may feel towards the others (Warren, 2003, p.21). When the barmaid approaches her, her demeanour is almost sulky and hostile as if she is unsure as to the kind of customer Emmi may prove to be.

Emmi’s first words to the girl “I pass by here every evening and hear the foreign music,” confirm to the audience that she has never been in the Bar and also the principal theme that runs through the movie, that of Berlin multiculturalism of that period. There are other reminders of this multiculturalism in the first scene. The Arabic music playing in the background and the wall carpet of the wall showing dancers depict the same contrast in cultures.

The barmaid reminds one of Brigitte Bardot and interestingly, in the first scene when she leans on the table to take Emmi’s order, there is a picture of a Blonde woman just behind her on the wall, which one gets a glimpse of for a few seconds. But the picture reinforces the similarity between the actress and her copycat barmaid as if to reinforce the class of the barmaid.

The use of colours in the first scene is also interesting (Lacey, 2016, p.56). The young bar maid wears black but Emmi has a multicoured dress underneath her somber black coat. Red is used for the table cloth, the bar as well as the lightning when Ali and Emmi dance. The colours seem to separate Emmi and Ali from the rest of the crowd in the first scene.

To what extent does reading the films we have studied as melodramas contribute to our understanding of them?

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974) is a film with the theme of love, affection, and betrayal, which are some of the conventions of a melodrama. The film is a melodrama which is a sub-genre of drama. Genre films provide the audience with the lesson on how to act and behave in a society. It also provides the way in which one is to deal with the ongoing problems in the society or in a particular situation. However, in the case of social problems it does not provide any solutions but illustrates a set of preferred values that puts emphasis on the rights of the individual's ownership, personal wealth, private ownership and the necessity of conforming to the moral and social laws of the society. The genre film is like a mirror on the face of the society that reflects the problems and the values within the society. In this film, the director Rainer Werner Fassbinder incorporates his Auteur nature in the melodrama to bring out the true nature of the society during 1947. The film is set in multicultural Germany, at a time when Arabs were considered as belonging to low and menial society. The film is a love story between an older German woman, Emmi and a young Arabic man, Ali, who get married after falling in love with each other. However, that is just the beginning of the story (Jill, 2000, p.452). As a melodrama, the film portrays the conflicted and complex feelings about race, of Emmi and Ali as well as those around them. The film conforms to all the elements of a melodrama with a hero, Ali a heroine Emmi and the role of the villain as played by the society, who find it hard to accept the inter racial marriage between a young Arab man and an older German woman. Among all the disagreement and hardships there is one individual who is accepting and supportive of the marriage between Ali and Emmi is the landlord's son. The melodrama uses the tale of a love story to bring out the discrimination faced by the Arabs in the German society. The living conditions of the Arabs are also highlighted in the movie. Ali and Emmi are cut off from her friends and families after the marriage, portraying a classic condition of melodrama which shows unsurmountable difficulties for the protagonist (Chaudhuri, 2013, p.456). The second half of the film is where there is a dramatic turn where Emmi too starts treating Ali in the same manner as Arabs are often treated in the German society (Dancyger, 2014, p.141). Ali cheats on Emmi with the bar owner of the Arab bar (Dawson, 2013, p.58). The film describes how fear of being accepted by the society takes away whatever good they had in them and eats at their soul (Stewart, 2014, p.92).

The film is a melodrama which very beautifully explains that fear is an emotion that will guide to make the worst of decisions and has the capability to ruin a beautiful relationship as well as conform to one's views and ideologies. On the other hand, it also illustrates the manner in which Ali and Emmi overcome their fear and free them from the narrow mindedness of the society using their power of love and showing the society how love can fill the deepest gaps that the society may have built within itself.


Reference List

  • Chaudhuri, S., (2013). Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974), Rainer Werner Fassbinder.
  • Dancyger, K., (2014). The technique of film and video editing: history, theory, and practice. CRC Press.
  • Jill Nelmes (ed.), (2000) An Introduction to Film Studies, London-New York: Routledge , p. 460
  • Lacey, N., (2016). Introduction to film. Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Stewart, M., (2014). Mute men and melodramatic renewal: the meaning of speechless faces in The Edge of Heaven and The Son. Studies in European Cinema, 11(2), pp.92-105.
  • Warren Buckland, (2003) Film Studies, London: Hodder Education,, p. 21

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