fassbinder.jpg  a felt tension between the fragile hearts bound in an unusual relationship and the rigidity of society around them is captured in the most beautiful scene in the movie “Ali: Fear Eat Soul”, which was summarized by Christine B Thomas “The deliberate stiffness of the arrangement constitutes an effective contrast to Emmi’s tears….Fassbinder, in a single moment, ably communicated what he had been striving for – Emotional density and Intellectual clarity, Identification and Distance, Sympathy and Observation…” This scene captures both the protagonists sitting at a road-side café,  in complete isolation, amidst the “sea of yellow chairs” {I want the reader to see this movie and freeze his or her eyes on the sea of yellow chairs} and being watched over by frozen employees of the restaurant. Fassbinder, through this well-crafted movie, succeeded in questioning Germans’ attitude towards Non-Germans, racial conflicts in the country through a simple yet incredibly honest portrayal of a relationship between Emmi Kurowski, a 60-year old widow (a cleaner by profession) and her second husband Ali – a black foreign worker from Morocco, who is 20 yrs younger to her. The story unfolds on a rainy evening, when Emmi enters the bar that is frequented by young Arabs, a bit curious about the strange music coming from the jukebox. The regime of “frozen stares” *(Fassbinder’s way of creating “Frozen spaces – they could be between young and old, Germans and Non-Germans/the outsiders, the rigid society and those who broke the so-called societal norms) begins from the opening scene itself. ..sitting alone is not good. You look too sad, thus Ali approaches Emmi, the old lady and asks for a dance. A polite and simple talk on the dance floor, at Emmi’s doorstep and in her kitchen is just a beginning of a sincere bonding between two lonely souls. Ali feels he does not belong to the country he is working in, feels rejection everywhere and draws solace from his Arab buddies…Germans are not same people as Arabs.

Are not emotional networks  deeper and profound than physical attraction ? and the social ambience around us fails to understand these deep waters. Emmi’s three married children are unable to hide their dismay and anger over mother’s decision to get married to the “outsider”, nosey neighbors rebuke the seemingly odd couple, and neighborhood grocer refuses to serve Ali when he shops for groceries. Emmi faces a cold-hearted and calculated indifference from her co-workers during lunch hour…isn’t the society a static framework? does n’t the society operate on “exclusion”, demonstrating it in long and cold stares, frozen human bodies and hushed silence, as the fragile love struggles to win its acceptance ? The couple takes a deliberate separation from the society they live and goes on a vacation. The society projects its needy and selfish image to them when they return from the vacation, both are accepted more easily and wholeheartedly for specific gains, and Ali is celebrated as an “exotic outsider”…but,happiness appears to be fleeting a guest to the couple, as their relationship faces internal stress, discordant weather – the usual suspect that springs out from a relationship suffocating under extreme age difference. While Emmi stays on as the steadfast individual with strong value system in the relationship and comforted by Ali’s presence in her life, Ali, the other hand, gradually becomes disillusioned about his identity. Unbearable silence builds home between them, and Ali could not suppress his sexual desires for long and searches for a younger female body. The contrast, he observes, between living with an older woman and a need to be with a woman of his age is brought out elegantly through the vibrancy that breathes in the young and buxom bar waitress’s apartment. Young and naked bodies are caught twisted and silhouetted against some unspoken loneliness. However, this sexual attraction does not last long and Ali plunges deep into a sense of guilt for having abandoned Emmi. What I really like about this movie is its simplicity, the poignancy with which it delineates the dynamics in a relationship that is so much in contrast to the set societal norms, the felt tensions and sadness in and around, the feeling of isolation and the fragile state of human mind in such scenario as captured by the camera, the silent observer, rather than in high-decibel melodramatic barrage of dialogues. Brigitte Mira as Emmi Kurowski gives an outstandingly strong performance – a simple, gentle-hearted woman with no expectations from the world, from the relationships she is part of. Too idealistic an image she may appear, but she makes the viewers feel that it is possible to be like her…..when we are together, we must be nice with each other. Otherwise, life is not worth living, Emmi says to Ali when they dance again.. {link : The stillness of the film is deeply sad...}

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