BFI Recommends: Fear Eats the Soul

Start the week with one of the great films about love and prejudice: Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s searing drama Fear Eats the Soul, recommended by Corinna Reicher.

Fear Eats the Soul (1974)

This devastatingly beautiful film about an unconventional relationship between an older woman, Emmi, played with much tenderness by Brigitte Mira, and a younger man, Ali (El Hedi ben Salem), a Moroccan immigrant, is Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s homage to the master of Hollywood melodrama, Douglas Sirk.

After a chance encounter in a bar, the couple fall in love and get married – but all is not well: nosy neighbours, colleagues and Emmi’s adult children meet the newlyweds with much hostility. As the couple become more and more marginalised, the prejudiced narrow-mindedness they encounter increasingly chips away at their happiness.

This powerful and visually rich drama unfolds across a series of carefully composed, very striking tableaux, which function as visual summaries of the characters’ isolation. Shot in just a fortnight, Fassbinder’s international breakthrough film won two awards at the Cannes Film Festival in 1974. More familiar with his later period pieces and television work, I rediscovered Fear Eats the Soul during its extended run at BFI Southbank a few years ago.

Corinna Reicher
Film Booker, Distribution