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.
A major theme in Kiss Me Deadly is the unknown. The protagonists are seeking elusive qualities of life, making them part of the unknown. A literal factor is a physical box that private eye Mike and others are seeking; neither the players in the film nor viewers know what this box contains.
In life we sometimes come in close contact with the unknown…we find what we are seeking, yet we still cannot interpret or utilize the ‘unknown’ properly. Kiss Me Deadly depicts just this; Mike finds this fabled box and discovers that he knows even less now than he did before. The container is a veritable Pandora’s Box, as we are shown that trying to open it proves to be dangerous. In a most human turn of events, this aspect of risk does not deter others from further attempting to open the ‘can of worms’.
It is all too expected that the literal opening of the box proves catastrophic. The historical context of the film immediately brings the Cold War to mind; an age of the unknown and of distrust. We as a nation and culture sought to uphold our political systems at home and abroad while European nations under different systems were the ‘unknown’. In a political sense, the film is symbolic by suggesting that when we meddle with foreign affairs, the results too can be catastrophic.
In a more individualistic light, the film is also a commentary on what we as human beings seek in our daily lives. Whether it be beauty, wealth, the fountain of youth or anything else, we spend so much time seeking that which we do not have…or more of what we do have in a mania of greed. We sometimes find that the grass is not always greener on the other side, and greed if often duly punished as human beings tend to employ tactics in encountering that ‘unknown’ which impede on the general quality of life for others. The directors of Kiss Me Deadly undoubtedly understood this and peppered the narrative with lessons on close encounters with the unknown.
As expected, Joss Whedon’s interview encompasses several important aspects of his personal life and career. A good amount of focus is given to Whedon’s early childhood and the background he came from, such as having a mother who was involved in theater. Being immersed in theater and watching many films clearly inspired Whedon to choose a career path in a related field, which would ultimately be television.
I feel like I have something in common with Whedon. My mother was always involved in the arts, namely fine arts like painting, costume design, and cosmetology. I’m not exactly interested in these same things, but having a mother with these interests enabled her to encourage me to explore the arts as well, whatever type I fancied. From an early age I became interested in film studies, something I have built somewhat of a career on in terms of studying and preservation in the area of film history. Just as I’m sure Whedon credits his mother for much support, I feel just the same way as my mother has and continues to be my main source of encouragement.