Fear Eats the Soul
Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Cornerhouse, 25 January 2011
As an early expression of Fassbinder’s great talent, this resituated retelling of All That Heaven Allows, in the final analysis marginally more optimistic than the original, could hardly be bettered.
They fall in love, a middle-aged German widow (actually she’s Polish, now that I think of it) and a young Moroccan immigrant, and then they marry and their daring love, though battered and blue-bruised, holds strong in the end. So, a little bit more optimistic than Douglas Sirk’s 1955 film.
Fassbinder is clear-eyed about the racism and bigotry of mid-70s German society and the indignities to which the marginalized (the old and the foreign) are subject; he registers also venality, infidelity and cultural misunderstandings. Never mind: decency and dignity, understanding and forgiveness and Eros’s great gift can be found here too.
Brigitte Mira’s performance makes the film, or at any rate raises it up a fair few notches, and there are three scenes at least that all should hold dear: the one where she and Ali decide to go on holiday, the fractious visit to Ali’s place of work where she meets with derisive laughter and the final conciliatory dance.
An excoriating look at a flawed society, yes, but also an unusual and unusually moving love story.