In Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Fear Eats the Soul (1974) an aging cleaning woman, Emmi (Brigitte Mira), marries a much younger, immigrant Moroccan mechanic, Ali (El Hedi ben Salem). Set in Munich during the 1970s, Fear Eatsthe Soul melds the conventions of melodrama with a radical sensibility in order to present a portrait of racism and everyday hypocrisy in postwar Germany. It is a film about the way conventional society detests anything and anybody unfamiliar--but also a film about the hopes and limits of love. Intricately directed, beautifully performed, and designed to show Munich life in all its shabby kitchiness, FearEats the Soul may be Fassbinder's finest film. Laura Cottingham celebrates Fassbinder's achievement, placing Fear Eats the Soul in relation to the director's extraordinarily prolific career in theater, film, and television. Her analysis pulls back the thin curtain that separated his work from his tumultuous life. In a detailed scene-by-scene analysis of Fear Eatsthe Soul, Cottingham shows how Fassbinder managed to combine beauty and tenderness with fierce political criticism.
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