65 user 115 critic

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974)

Angst essen Seele auf (original title)
Not Rated | | Drama, Romance | 31 October 1974 (USA)
A lonely widow meets a much younger Arab worker in a bar during a rainstorm. They fall in love, to their own surprise and to the outright shock of their families, colleagues, and drinking buddies.
4 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »




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


The wildly prolific German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder paid homage to his cinematic hero Douglas Sirk with this update of that filmmaker's All That Heaven Allows (1955). A lonely widow (Brigitte Mira) meets a much younger Arab worker (El Hedi ben Salem) in a bar during a rainstorm. They fall in love, to their own surprise-and to the outright shock of their families, colleagues, and drinking buddies. In Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, Fassbinder expertly wields the emotional power of classic Hollywood melodrama to expose the racial tensions underlying contemporary German culture.

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Drama | Romance


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


This film has a 100% rating based on 34 critic reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. 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 »


Featured in Fassbinder (2015) See more »


Al Asfouriah
Written by Philemon Wahba
Performed by Sabah
See more »

User Reviews

Is it love?
3 September 2002 | by Mort-31See all my reviews

First of all, this film has definitely the best (German) movie title ever. It loses much of its power when it's translated but in German it is absolutely fascinating.

On the other hand, Fassbinder's movies and especially this one are not untranslatable, which is positive. The story about a love (is it?) between two people of different age and origin is universal and, though set in a very xenophobe and intolerant Germany, should be understood by everybody all over the world. Fassbinder is a master in guiding his actors so they can they play naturally and believably without using a particular local accent or slang that is probably more realistic.

I do not completely agree with the film's utterly pessimistic view on practically all the characters in the movie; I think his portray of contemporary society is a little bit exaggerated (and it was even twenty-five years ago). However, I acknowledge that by means of exaggerating like this, Fassbinder makes his criticism clear and evokes a particularly bad feeling (of guilt?) in the viewer's belly. While the story is rather sad, it includes a lot of (sarcastic) side-swipes on society as it is.

Angst essen Seele auf (oh, this is a marvellous title!) is maybe a more silent version of Harold and Maude; more silent but not less interesting.

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West Germany


German | Arabic

Release Date:

31 October 1974 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul See more »


Box Office


DEM260,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$11,623, 16 February 2003

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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