Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974)
"Angst essen Seele auf" (original title)

Not Rated  |   |  Drama, Romance  |  5 June 1974 (France)
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Reviews: 48 user | 83 critic

An almost accidental romance is kindled between a German woman in her mid-sixties and a Moroccan migrant worker around twenty-five years younger. They abruptly decide to marry, appalling everyone around them.

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Brigitte Mira ...
El Hedi ben Salem ...
Irm Hermann ...
Elma Karlowa ...
Mrs. Kargus
Anita Bucher ...
Mrs. Ellis
Gusti Kreissl ...
Doris Mattes ...
Mrs. Angermeyer (as Doris Mathes)
Margit Symo ...
Katharina Herberg ...
Girl in bar
Lilo Pempeit ...
Mrs. Münchmeyer
Peter Gauhe ...
Bruno Kurowski
Marquard Bohm ...
Walter Sedlmayr ...
Hannes Gromball ...
Hark Bohm ...


Emmi, a German woman in her mid-sixties, falls in love with Ali, a Moroccan immigrant worker around twenty-five years younger. When they abruptly decide to marry, everyone around them seems appalled. When the folks calm down a bit, Emmi and Ali's relationship grows uncertain. Written by Oliver Heidelbach

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Drama | Romance


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

5 June 1974 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul  »

Filming Locations:

Box Office


DEM 260,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


The original German title "Angst essen Seele auf" is deliberately grammatically incorrect, translating literally as "Fear eat soul up." The correct German form would be "Angst isst die Seele auf. It is a direct reference to Ali's bad german. The line of dialogue he utters is simply "Fear eat soul up" See more »


Emmi Kurowski: We'll be rich, Ali... and we'll buy ourselves a little piece of heaven.
Ali: Why heaven?
Emmi Kurowski: Oh, just a fancy of mine.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Before the introductory credits there is the line: Das Glück ist nicht immer lustig (Happiness is not always fun) See more »


Referenced in Kolle - Ein Leben für Liebe und Sex (2002) See more »


Du Schwarzer Zigeuner (Cikánka)
Written by Karel Vacek
Performed by R.A. Dvorský
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User Reviews

A poignant, honest, and revealing work of art
7 November 2005 | by (Vancouver, B.C.) – See all my reviews

Two lonely people connect with each other at a local bar in Munich, Germany. The bar is frequented by foreign workers, mostly Arabic, who come to socialize and escape from the rejection they feel as foreign workers. Inspired by the Douglas Sirk melodrama All That Heaven Allows, Ali: Fear Eats the Soul by German master Rainer Werner Fassbinder is a simple and direct statement of love between an older woman and a younger man and also a biting commentary on the mentality of prejudice and the state of German society during a period of economic resurgence.

Shot in a period of only fifteen days, Ali (El Hedi ben Salem) is a fortyish Moroccan auto mechanic who feels estranged from his culture amidst the condescension and hostility of German society. Emmi Kurowski (Brigette Mira), who is probably close to sixty, is a lonely cleaning lady who lost her husband many years ago and finds the outlets for companionship very limited. To escape from the rain, Emmi ducks into the bar where a few foreign workers gather as the jukebox plays haunting Arabic songs. On a dare, Ali asks Emmi to dance and the two become friends after he accompanies her to her home and stays overnight. Speaking in broken German, Ali's terse answers to her questions underscore his inability to fully blend into German society. As Ali says, "German Master. Arab Dog".

Emmi is a native German who once belonged to the Nazi Party but shrugs it off by asking "Wasn't everyone?" She is an innately good person but full of the contradictions of German society. They are drawn to each other out of a desperate need for love but as they see more of each other, they are subject to increasing hostility from nosy neighbors, co-workers, and members of Emmi's family. The resentment reflects not only ageism but also the reaction to foreign workers who in their view are usurping their jobs. In a classic scene, Emmi tells her children that she is going to marry and introduces Ali as they sit in stunned silence and disbelief staring at her until one of the sons kicks in the television set as the rest get up and leave.

Even after they are married, the hostility continues and the couple are subjected to condescending service in restaurants and neighbors telling the landlord's son about Emmi's "lodger" and calling the police to report a disturbance when friends gather to listen to music. In a powerful sequence, Ali and Emmi sit alone in a garden restaurant surrounded by empty yellow chairs and the restaurant staff stands transfixed, looking at them from the doorway. After Emmi breaks down in tears, they decide to go on a short vacation, hoping that things will turn around when they return. Surprisingly they do when hypocritical neighbors and family members suddenly discover that they are in need of assistance from the couple.

The fears have been implanted, however, and the newlyweds' deep-seated insecurities come to the surface despite a noticeable change in attitude from the people around them. Ali longs for his native food that Emmi cannot or will not cook and turns to the buxom owner of the local bar for sex and Couscous. After a brief separation, they return to the bar where they first met as the film takes an unexpected turn. Brigette Mira turns in a solid performance as the lonely old woman, giving her the strength of character to withstand all of life's rejections. El Hedi ben Salem is magnificent as the strong stoic African who is able to give of himself to a very different kind of partner. With limited dialogue, the camera-work enhances the feeling of isolation with wide shots that render the couple vulnerable to the stares of neighbors, family, waiters, and bar owners. A poignant, honest, and revealing work of art, Ali: Fear Eats the Soul is an immediate addition to my list of favorite films.

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