Love, an instrument of Social Repression
In Fassbinder’s Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, we are shown a love story between a German woman and a foreign worker many years her junior who is a native of Morocco. Themes in the film encompass racism, controversial relationships, aging, economic unrest, and human suffering in general.
“Love is the best, most insidious, most effective instrument of social repression”, Fassbinder wrote. A bitter pessimist, Fassbinder seems to have expressed that the phenomenon of love has many a controversy attached to it more often than not. While both main character of the film find themselves in love with each other, it proves to be the outside forces of society, family, and culture which make the relationship a struggle. The scenario is as old as the Greek tragedies. For many who experience it, love is not a walk in the park, nor is it lingering. It is a fleeting illusory feeling, one that hopefully leads to a bond of mutual trust and appreciation that makes a long-term relationship possible.
Despite the fact that Fassbinder was of German origin, it is either a curious intended or unintended factor that racism plays a major role in the narrative. Casual references are made to Hitler as a trivial memory in the society, yet its inhabitants are still seemingly racist and disgusted by foreign workers in their land. While Ali and his Arab friends have their own sub-culture while existing in Germany, his newfound love is a native German. It is suggested that she has a long-time taste for foreigners as her deceased husband was of Polish descent working in Germany. Still, her children with this man are initially disgusted by Ali as well in an almost ironic but expected twist.
Is love an instrument of social repression? Perhaps, but one thing is for sure. The coming-forth of love allows for social repression of lovers by their outside world. Fassbinder illustrates this magnificently.