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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Happiness is a warm yuppie.

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974) on IMDb

Plot Overview

A frumpy old woman enters the Asphalt Bar, a Munich juke joint. Amid stares from its regulars, she seats herself at a table by the door, orders “Ein cola, danke,” and tells the barmaid (Barbara Valentin) she's there to keep out of the rain. The bar­maid tells her the juke­box selections are half German, half Arabic. They play a dance number, and a morose Ali (El Hedi Ben Salem) responds to his buddy's encouragement to request a dance with the older German woman Emmi (Brigitte Mira).

He buys “Zwei biere” for them, shares some confidences (“Was ist los?”), says where he's from (“Tismit, Morocco”), and that he works as a mechanic: an “Arab dog” under a “German master.” She reciprocates, “I'm a cleaning lady.” He sees her home.

Her neighbor scandalized to see her with a blackamoor, spreads the news abroad. Emmi's Polish husband, we learn, had died in 1955. Ali brushes off her concerns of the moment with an Arabic expression, “kif-kif” (“kayf-kayf”) that means, ‘Who cares?’ He spends the night with her and they part in the morning (“Guten tag.”)

They continue to see each other and fall in love despite their differences. They get married impulsively, endure criticism (“Shwein!”) from friends, family, co-workers & the business community, and take a vacation to let things cool off. When they've done enough of that, they're not united against a common enemy any more; they then have to adjust to their own difference like any married couple.


The crucifix hanging on the apartment wall of Emmi's daughter Krista (Irm Hermann) suggests a Christian family. The circumcised Moroccan in the shower suggests he's Muslim. Their religious difference is not over­played, but it's there (among others.)

The Arabic word kayf means, literally ‘pleasure’, from which derives our English word kef or kif, which mean, according to Webster, “a state of dreamy tranquility.” According to Ali kif-kif means ‘who cares?’ We might say in English, “What­ever” or, “Six of one, half a dozen of another.” Who cares?

The landlord's son Mr. Gruber (Marquard Bohm) tried to evict Emmi's “tenant” Ali on account of the provision in the lease against sub­let­ting. Once Emmi told him they were getting married, though, he changed his tune to let him stay. He told her: “You're old enough to know what you're doing.” Kif-kif. It's like the celibate apostle Paul who was against fornicating cohabitation, but allowed marriage, (1Cor. 7:7) “For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.” Kif-kif. Who cares?

As for mixed marriages between a believer and an unbeliever, (1Cor. 7:13-14) “the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife.” Paul's answer here is framed in terms of an existing marriage of a Christian to an unbeliever, but he allows for such to apply to developing unions as well, (1Cor. 3:21-22) “For all things are yours; Whether … the world, or … things present, or things to come; all are your's.” Six of one, half a dozen of another. “Things present” is the dozen one already has to divide in two, “half a dozen.” The marriage one already has. “Things to come” is the half dozen one is making up: 1-2-3-4-5-6. The marriage one is entering into. Kif-kif.

In his second letter to the Corinthians Paul says he's, (2Cor. 4:2) “... not handling the word of God deceit­fully.” An example of deceit can be found when, (Gen. 34:13) “the sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father deceitfully, and said, because he had defiled Dinah their sister.” They told them they were allowed to inter­marry but used it as a ruse to gain an advantage, because actually they weren't. Paul wasn't being deceitful, so after he tells them in first Corinthians a mixed marriage is permissible, he's not going to tell them in second Corinthians it's not. Modern bibles don't use a specific plural ‘ye’ in, (2Cor. 6:14) “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: ...” so it is co-opted for a singular application prohibiting individual (mixed) marriages rather than go to his following rhetorical questions and match (singular) case with, (2Cor. 6:15) “what part has he that believeth with an infidel?” If a couple is far enough along to consider marriage, then they can ask them­selves the question of how that would affect their individual Christian commitments and act accordingly, rather then accept some kind of group prohibition that doesn't even apply. In “Ali: Fear Eats the Soul” the couple worked out their difference by getting married at the Civil Registry rather than opt for a religious rite.

The scenes at JACOBS KAFFEEnice Jewish name, that—where the foreigner had to try to make purchases using his limited German illustrated why some people shop at the super­market. One can save a lot of trouble by simply marrying within his or her own faith, race, age bracket, ethnicity, nationality, etc., just as in the aggregate Paul wanted fellow­ships religiously unmixed. But we can see how that plan worked out for all of Emmi's old lady friends who wouldn't dream of marrying some­one different: it meant in practice that they didn't get married at all.

The context of Paul's “not unequally yoked” statement includes, (2Cor. 6:12-13) “Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels. Now for a recompence in the same, be ye also enlarged.” Paul was kif-kif; the Corinthians were tight-assed. In the movie most every­one was tight-assed, Bruno to the point of imploding the picture tube on the telly by giving it the boot. Unfortu­nately, when the modern Bible versions leave an under­stood ‘you’ in the expression to “be not unequally yoked,” the tight-assed reader inserts a singular ‘you’, being “straitened in [his] own bowels”, and forbids such a religiously mixed marriage. But the couple who even gets that far to consider it has then the option of exploring whether it would work, as it did seem to in this movie. Unfortunately, a couple's usual season of court­ship occurs in their youth when they've yet to master Bible translations. Instead, they rely on what Bible they hear used in their church or fellow­ship, or sister congregations for that matter. That's why I feel it's important to use the King James Version (KJV), or at least make it under­stood that these modern versions should be checked against it.

Production Values

“Ali: Fear Eats the Soul” (1974), German title “Angst Essen Seele Auf,” was inspired by Douglas Sirk's melo­drama “All That Heaven Allows.” This “Fear” was written and directed by Rainer Werner Fass­binder. Its leads are Brigitte Mira and El Hedi ben Salem who do very well as the alternatives to Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson from before. Also starring are Barbara Valentin as Barbara, Irm Hermann as Krista, Karl Scheydt as Albert Kurowski, Marquard Bohm as Gruber, Walter Sedlmayr as Anger­mayer, Doris Mattes as Mrs. Anger­meyer and Lilo Pempeit as Mrs. Münch­meyer. The director plays the uptight son-in-law Eugen. Brigette Mira puts in a solid performance as the lonely old woman stoically facing life's disap­point­ments. El Hedi ben Salem is superb as the strong, silent blackamoor who finds fulfillment in an unlikely partner.

“Ali” is not rated in the US but is rated PG in Canada; it has a nude male shower scene in it. It's the last of the New German Cinema. With limited dialogue and nonexistent music, the camera-work enhances the sense of isolation with wide shots rendering the couple vulnerable to the stares of neighbors, waiters, barflies and family. Fass­binder's use of color is a rush. It was stunningly shot on the fly with a border­line campy mise-en-scène.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

Even though I'd already seen “All That Heaven Allows”, and this German remake necessitated reading the subtitles, I felt it was a worth­while viewing experience. It was well done.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: No action, no adventure. Suitability for Children: Suitable for children 13+ years. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day. Suspense: A few suspenseful moments. Overall product rating: Four stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture is quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Print, software.

Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary. Springfield, Mass.: MERRIAM-WEBSTER. 1984. Print.